BERLIN - American Legion Post 68 marked Flag Day on Thursday, but did so in a new way.
The post used a new fire pit built by local Eagle Scout Justin Topliff to honorably retire weathered and tattered flags by burning them on the date the flag was adopted. Black barrels in the parking lot had been used previously.
“It’s satisfying to see your hard work pay off,” said Topliff after the ceremony, which featured stories of patriotism and praise for the flag. It concluded with Boy Scouts from several troops in town placing retired flags into the fire.
The burn pit idea was initiated after Topliff contacted an assistant Scout Master, John Beach, who suggested the idea, said Topliff’s father, Stuart, who is a member of the Legion post.
Originally meant to be just a 6-by-6 fire pit, the idea was expanded, at the request of post Commander Vinny Trigila, to include an 864-square-foot patio with an electricity hookup and space for a podium, which Topliff also helped restore.
It took three to four months to finish, said Stuart Topliff, and required two tons of three-quarter-inch rocks and 16 tons of stone dust to lay under the patio.
“If you take a very good look at it, I think they’ve done an outstanding job,” said Trigila. “This really alleviated a lot of problems with the fire department.”
Topliff’s mother and brother, who also helped with the project, were in attendance for the event, as were members of the Auxiliary, Sons of the American Legion, local Scouts and families.
Suzanne Topliff thanked K&G Masonry, Suzio York Hill and Lowe’s for donation of materials and knowledge.
“I think (Eagle Scout) projects really prepare (members),” she said, adding that her son had to make presentations to companies while asking for donations and have the persistence to complete the project.
“His project is really nice,” said Brandon Peate. Peate, a member of Troop 41, was one of four Boy Scouts who participated in the reviewing of the flags before they were burned.
“Justin and his troop did a really nice job,” said Terri Slisz, president of the Post 68 Auxiliary.
Trigila said an another Eagle Scout will be looking to build bocce and horseshoe courts near the pit, restore benches and build picnic tables.
Local Girl Scouts will also be looking to complete projects at the post, he added. Another Eagle Scout previously restored the cannon outside the Legion post.
“We’re looking better every year, thanks to our local Scouts,” said Trigila.
Topliff will be graduating from Berlin High School this month and going on to to Tunxis Community College, where he will study graphic design and music.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.