Lantana Scout Honors Fallen Veterans

Lantana Scout Honors Fallen Veterans

by Susan Neuhalfen

Eagle Scout projects are about giving back to the community and in most cases it seems like it involves building and physical labor, but for Chris Wells of Lantana Scout Troop 99, he had a different idea of how to conduct his Eagle Project.

“I’m not much of a builder so I thought I would work on a project that was more about databases and organizing,” said the incoming Marcus High School Junior. “In all honesty it turned out to be harder and took a lot more time, but it was worth it.”

To preface the story, Troop 99 puts flags on the graves of veterans at several area cemeteries on various holidays. Many cemeteries do not keep accurate records so finding the graves can be a challenge. Though veterans usually have VA-furnished headstones, there are many who are interred with other family members and opt to not have that particular marker.

Chinn Chapel Cemetery in Double Oak was one the first burial sites in the area and acts as the final resting site for some of the original settlers, as well as many who served their country at wartime. Chris reached out to the cemeteries’ beneficiaries to see if they would allow the project. The two ladies, Diane Miller Calvert and Betty Leatherwood whose ancestors were part of the original colony, met with him and agreed that it would be a worthwhile project. They provided him with the layout of the cemetery as well as some of the names that had been documented by the census and earlier lists, but it was far from complete.

Chris set out to work, making spreadsheets and matching names from all of the lists provided. Some only had blank limestone covering the graves with no markings and some were hand-carved with only initials. The chapel on the property dates back to 1858 as do some of the graves. Once the lists were compiled, he had a handful of scouts meet him at the cemetery to go over each grave, one by one, to match them to the list and see if there was anything on the gravestone about veteran status. They even used a drone to take aerial pictures of the graves so as to not miss anything. There are just under 700 graves on the property as far as they could tell.

It took one year, four separate hours long trips to the cemetery and many more hours spent at the computer to compile the list. They took pictures of every veteran’s headstone and documented the location by quadrant, latitude and longitude. He created a book with all of the information and presented one copy to the beneficiaries, one to the Boy Scouts and one to the Flower Mound Public Library.

“The librarian congratulated him on being an author,” laughed his father, Michael Wells, who is also a veteran. “They immediately put it in the reference section.”

When asked his favorite part of the project, Chris said it was a funny story.

“I was using an example of two people having the same name, having served in two different wars but they had to be catalogued under the same name so I didn’t want it to seem confusing,” he remembered. “Mrs. Calvert smiled and said that I had found the graves of her father and grandfather and that she was very grateful. Seeing how happy she was reminded me of why I did this project.”

“It has been a pleasure to provide the beneficiaries of Chinn Chapel Cemetery with the opportunity to have our scouts, and particularly Chris Wells, provide them with an accurate catalogue of the deceased veterans laid to rest there,” said Nick DiSibio, Scoutmaster of Troop 99. “It was a great project and as both the Scoutmaster and a veteran myself, it makes me proud.”

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