When Cutler Bay resident Peter Rodriguez, 14, of Boy Scout Troop 314 chose something to do for his Eagle Scout Project, rather than perform something local he wanted to boost the morale of American military members overseas.
Rodriguez, a student at Coral Reef High, decided to do that by purchasing 900 small flags and recruiting volunteers to fold them into pocket-sized triangles and write accompanying personal notes to send to troops overseas. He hoped to lift their spirits by giving them something from home to keep with them and letting them know people care.
“I have some family members in the military,” Rodriguez said. “I just feel verystrong about the military and I wanted to do something because they’re over there. I found an organization online called Operation Gratitude that collects things to send to soldiers, so I contacted them and asked them if I could send them some flags. I started working on this last year, around summer.”
Peter’s cousin, Javier Rodriguez, an Eagle Scout himself who currently is at West Point, attended the flag-folding event at American Legion Post 133, 16401 SW 90 Ave. in Palmetto Bay, on Sunday, Mar. 16. Roughly 50 volunteers participated, mostly from Scout Troop 314, but also some family members and others came to fold the flags and write notes to slip into small plastic pouches.
Attending to help with the effort were Cutler Bay Councilmembers Sue Ellen Loyzelle and Peggy Bell, along with Miami- Dade Commission Vice Chair Lynda Bell. Although three hours had been allocated for the project, it took only two hours for the dedicated volunteers to successfully fold all 900 flags and add the notes.
Recognizing the importance of Peter’s project, a plaque was presented to him by Claudio M Perez, CEO of The Agape Network, an organization devoted to restoring individuals and families to psychological, social, physical, and spiritual health.
Helping get the word out to volunteers, local government leaders and the media was the task of Hannah Keime, a ninth grade student at Cutler Bay Academy Advanced Studies Centennial Campus and a member of the Youth Advisory Committee in Cutler Bay. For several reasons she was happy to help.
“Peter’s mom asked me if I would do it, and I said ‘yes’ because Peter and I have been friends since kindergarten,” she said, adding that her brother, First Lieutenant Hyrum Keime, was presented with a similar pocket flag when he was deployed to Afghanistan last year.
“He carried it around with him his whole time there,” Keime added. “He said it was like a little piece of home.”
Peter’s parents were on hand to help with the project but mainly to watch with pride as their son kept the whole event running smoothly. His father, also named Peter, conveyed his feelings about his son.
“It’s hard to express right now, but we’re very proud of Peter’s accomplishments and very proud of our military and what they do for us,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “I was not a Scout, but my brother was a Scout and we have a lot of Scouts in the family. We’re really into the outdoors and God and honor. It’s a great organization and it does amazing things. We’ve watched Peter grow up and become a man, through Scouts, really.”
Peter’s mother, Yvonne Rodriguez, did not have a background in Scouting before her son became a Scout but is a troop leader now.
“It’s so amazing, seeing him grow from a little boy into a man and be able to accomplish everything he’s done,” she said. “It’s an awesome project. I’ve had several cousins in the military, so I’ve always tried to teach them [Scouts] to have honor and pride for their country and be thankful for the men who have fought for our country.”