SHAFTSBURY -- Benjamin Hulett, 16, is an eighth generation Shaftsburian with a long lineage of family members that served in the military. Throughout the past year, Hulett has taken it upon himself to help local veterans with a special project, near and dear to his heart.
"Each year as Memorial Day approaches, local service organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Boy Scouts of America, and volunteers place American flags on all veteran gravesites in Shaftsbury," said Ken Coonradt, Superintendent of Cemeteries in Shaftsbury. "Unfortunately, a number of veterans' gravesites are missed because of illegible markings or questionable engravings."
Hulett, who had been aware of the problem for quite some time, added that unless the flags were up, it was impossible to know which gravesites were those of civilians and which were those of military personnel.
It was this that sparked an idea within the veteran community and Hulett to come up with an alterative method of marking each veteran gravesite.
Hulett, along with James Meskun, Chairman of Shaftsbury Veterans, Coonradt, and other local veterans, decided to purchase small, 2.25" x 1.5'' medallions, with "U.S. Veteran" engraved, and apply them to each veteran headstone or footstone.
Hulett agreed to plan and coordinate this medallion project and carried out all necessary planning and fundraising required to apply the medallions in Shaftsbury's cemeteries, as well as Grandview Cemetery and the Catholic cemeteries in North Bennington.
Hulett spearheaded fundraising efforts, including bottle drives that raised over $1,000. He also made presentations to the local VFW and American Legion posts, as well as the Shaftsbury Methodist Church, explaining his project, that culminated in generous donations from all three organizations.
Funds received in excess of those required for the medallion project will be used to update and maintain the Veterans' Memorial at the Shaftsbury Town Hall.
Hulett is excited about the community's response to and support of his project, especially since it is one so near and dear to him, and his family.
"Seeing as so many of my family members have served in the military, this project means a lot to me. I can't wait to see it completed."
Hulett hopes to finish applying all of the medallions by the end of this summer.
Those who would like to learn more about this Veteran Medallion project can contact Hulett at 802-375-2527, James Meskun, chairman of Shaftsbury Veterans Committee at 802-442-2224, or Ken Coonradt, superintendent of cemeteries at 802-447-3479.
Contact Elizabeth Conkey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bethconkey.