Devin Smith

Devin Smith, center, his fellow Scouts and veteran team members in front of the partially finished Carefree Veterans Memorial. Smith led the flagpole installation for his Eagle Scout project with help from the Scouts and veterans.

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evin Smith always knew he wanted to do something to honor veterans for his Eagle Scout project. The stars aligned when he was asked to manage the installation of the flagpole at Carefree’s new Veterans Memorial.

The American flag, as well as the National League of Families POW/MIA flag, stands on the western half of Carefree Desert Gardens, the finished memorial’s location. Carefree’s Vice Mayor John Crane, who is working with the five veterans who organized the effort, said he hopes the project will be completed by Veterans Day.

“We’re really excited about it, and we think it’s going to be a perfect area for people to go and sit and just contemplate the contribution our veterans have made to our country,” said Mike Ferrell, the veteran managing the project. 

The semi-secluded monument consists of benches, brass plaques, stonework as well as the flags. They are awaiting the arrival of the curved pavers, which will be the finishing touch. 

Smith’s Eagle Scout project provided him an opportunity to demonstrate leadership while performing a service for the good of the community, something he had never done before, he said. 

“I’ve never been the person who really is an out-front leading type. I was always the person helping the leader so that they could become all that they were supposed to be,” Smith said. Between this project and other efforts with his church, Smith became the leader God called him to be. 

On July 19, under the leadership of Smith, Boy Scout Troop 603 and his church friends installed the flagpole, which was donated by Jason Macke with FlagPole Today in Peoria. Macke also donated his time, guiding the Boy Scouts through its installation. 

“It was just really nice being able to look up after that hard day at work and be able to see the two flags standing there,” Smith said. He said he can’t wait for the project to be completed so they can have a proper flag ceremony to make it official. 

After the flagpole was installed, he had to complete paperwork to finish the process of becoming an Eagle Scout. However, he emphasized that the project is just a small part of becoming an Eagle Scout. 

The Eagle Board Review is “wanting to see the man you’ve become because of Boy Scouts, the leader you’ve become, how Boy Scouts has really changed your life for the better.”

“They want to see that you deserve to be an Eagle Scout, not just because of the project but because of how you live your life,” he said. 

Smith is an Eagle Scout and said the project was “the final steppingstone that I needed to get over right before I turned 18.” Smith now works full time at Discount Tire, and in December, he plans to cut his hours back to intern at his church as a youth pastor.

Ferrell, who served in the U.S. Army for three years, said working with Smith and the other Boy Scouts “restored my faith in the younger generation.” He added that the Scouts did an excellent job and were very well organized and coordinated.

The town didn’t pay for the monument, as it was a grassroots effort, Crane said. The organizers were going to start asking for donations from businesses and local residents but decided to hold off once COVID-19 started running its course.

Businesses and community members were still able to contribute. Kiwanis and Happy Fitness with Patricia provided significant donations, Crane said. 

“As vice mayor, I could’ve had the town contribute to this, but I didn’t want them to. I wanted this thing to be grassroots. I wanted the citizens, whether Carefree or neighboring communities, to fund it, and it has been just great.”

Many of the vendors the organizers purchased supplies from offered discounts once they understood the cause, he added. 

“We’ve had a lot of donations, some small, some large, but people have different means. Everyone contributes within their bounds.”

This is an exciting feat for the North Valley, as the only other Veterans Memorial he knows of is in Anthem, Crane said. As a veteran, seeing the monument come to fruition was a meaningful experience, Crane said, as he served in the Navy for seven years as a submarine officer.

“Carefree is a veteran-friendly community. We have a very strong Veterans Day program every November and a strong Memorial Day program in May, but we’re looking for ways to honor veterans all the time, every day."