Eagle Scout wins national award
When Dawson Durigs mammoth Eagle Scout project wrapped up last year, he was satisfied with the feeling that he had done something good for the veterans he helped honor in nearby Pleasant View Cemetery. The defining moment came after the restoration work he did there was honored at a Memorial Day ceremony last year.
When I had the ceremony, and I was walking off, there were a good amount of veterans there. Just seeing their faces that was payment enough to do this hundreds of times, Durig says.
But he received an unexpected honor this month from an organization with roots even older than some of the graves Durig honored: the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), which recently named Durig winner of the National Outstanding Youth Volunteer for Veterans award.
Durig, a member of Wilsonvilles Boy Scout Troop 194, says that the project was inspired by his grandfather, who was an airman in World War II and flew more than two dozen missions over Germany.
He went into the war when he was 17, one year older than I am now, Durig says, who started his Eagle project at age 14. I could never do that.
He sought out a project that would allow him to honor his late grandfather, and found that the flagpole at Pleasant View Cemetery was pitted and covered with rust.
Durig also noticed that some of the graves at the cemetery which is located between Wilsonville and Sherwood had been badly weathered by decades of Oregon rain.
He began by restoring the flag pole, sanding it down and repainting it, in addition to adorning it with an eagle on top. Then he planted a granite slab beneath the flagpole that indicates the direction of each gravesite in the cemetery.
Finally he outfitted each grave with a bronze star that indicates the war in which each veteran fought. Veterans from the Gulf War, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, World Wars I and II, the Spanish War, the Indian Wars, the Civil War, the Mexican War and the Blackhawk Wars were among those whose gravesites he worked on.
I just wanted to do something, and it just escalated from there, Durig says.
The project took a year to complete and cost more than $12,000, which Durig raised himself, asking local dignitaries and businesspeople for their support.
There were times, he says, when he felt overwhelmed. Raising the money was one of the most difficult parts. But returning to the cemetery gave him the inspiration he needed to persevere.
Just up the hill there are veterans from the Civil War, he says. Once you go and see where the roots are, its all worth it. I knew what I was doing was right and that the people I was doing it for deserved it.
All of Durigs work was acknowledged at the Memorial Day celebration held last year. The ceremony featured a flyover and a military presentation of the flag, plus a performance from a military band.
As it happened, several DAR members were in attendance at the ceremony. They came to Durig and told him theyd like to nominate him for an award.
Durig gave his consent, and went on to win the Outstanding Service for Veterans award for the state of Oregon. And two weeks ago, he learned that he had been named the winner of the national award.
In May, Durig will give a speech to the Oregon DAR convention. In June the DAR will sponsor his trip to the national DAR convention in Washington, D.C., where he will give a short speech and be presented with the award.
Durig says that he was surprised and excited to find out that hed won the award. The project, he says, was always about the veterans, and he feels that its been successful because it accomplished his goal of raising the communitys awareness of veterans and their sacrifices.
I never did any of this for me, he says. This all started out for the people who sacrificed their lives, and knew that they might never be coming home.