TACOMA – Clay Curl has been laboring since early May to give his parish school a more distinguished place to fly the Stars and Stripes.
"The old pole was rusty and not an honorable way to display our flag," said Thomas Jay, principal of Visitation Catholic STEM Academy and a Navy veteran.
Clay, a 17-year-old Boy Scout and member of Visitation Parish, proposed installing a new flagpole in front of the school as his Eagle Scout project. "It would be even cooler if we dedicated it to the veterans," he said.
The parish and school serve many military families connected to nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Jay said. Clay’s family has a history of military service, and he is considering joining the Marine Corps one day.
So the teen designed a flagpole surrounded by a concrete "ceremonial deck" adorned with five brass plates depicting the emblems of the main U.S. military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
A color guard from Joint Base Lewis-McChord prepares to raise the flag on the new flagpole at Tacoma’s Visitation Catholic STEM Academy May 29. Photo: Courtesy Clay Curl
"It looks absolutely amazing," Jay said of the pole, dedicated in a special ceremony May 29.
Design work for the project began in April, Clay said, and the physical labor started the first week of May. Clay and his volunteers worked all day on three Saturdays to complete the project.
The project was a team effort, with Catholics, veterans and Clay’s troop rallying to bring the project to fruition. Some gave money, and others donated time and talent to help Clay remove the old flagpole and build the new one.
Boy Scout Clay Curl stands beneath the flag after the dedication of the new flagpole at Visitation Catholic STEM Academy in Tacoma. Photo: Courtesy Clay Curl
"I got a lot of help from my troop, volunteers, Father [Nick] Wichert [Visitation’s pastor], my family and other parishioners," Clay said.
Jay said he saw Clay’s project as a great opportunity to recognize veterans, so he offered financial support — a $3,000 grant the school received from the Archdiocese of Seattle’s Office of Catholic Schools for beautification project.
Clay created a GoFundMe account, where donations poured in. The fundraising was so successful — nearly $7,000 in donations on top of the grant — that Clay is donating Visitation’s contribution back to the school. In addition, he has pledged to donate any remaining money to Visitation Parish for repairs.
Father Wichert blessed the new flagpole during the May 29 ceremony, where the school band played the national anthem. A flag donated by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell was raised by a color guard from JBLM, led by Col. Chris Petty, whose daughter attends Visitation.
Petty, who grew up in Puyallup and is an Eagle Scout, said he was impressed with the amount of effort put into Clay’s project, and the final result. Petty has donated a U.S. flag that was flown over Afghanistan, and soon will be flown on the school’s new flagpole. "I’m honored to be able to do something like this," he said.
With the project complete, Clay expressed his excitement and gratitude on his GoFundMe page: "I couldn’t have done this without all the amazing support I have gotten from each and every one of you," he wrote.