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Phil Johnson Exceptional Leadership Award

Greg Chacos, Assistant Program Lead for our Durham, North Carolina shares a fantastic story about a special project that resulted in an asset to the Durham NC Program and the disabled veterans they serve.


In late 2017 we were approached by Ben Logel, a high school student in search of a service project to fulfill the requirements for a Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout service project. Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable and is awarded to only four percent of Boy Scouts. Requirements include earning at least 21 merit badges and completing an extensive service project that the scout plans, organizes, leads and manages. For this project Ben also had to raise the necessary funds.

Ben heard of our program and contacted Program Lead Dan Estrem to see how he might fulfill his service project requirements with something that would be of benefit to our program. Dan invited him to join us at some of our fishing outings to learn about what we do. We fish six times from mid-November through March at a lake stocked with trout, but the rest of the year we fish three times a month at local lakes for bream and bass. Our sessions last between 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM and we usually have between 20 and 30 vets and volunteers in attendance. Sometimes a van from the Durham Medical Center brings a few vets but everybody else gets there on their own. We provide support for the vets as needed, and we supply lunch.

After seeing how we operate and chatting with vets and volunteers, Ben learned that Dan transported our gear to the outings in his small SUV, which was packed to the limit with cased rods, boxes with flies, leaders and tippet material, plus folding chairs, canopies, containers with lunch necessities, cases of beverages, and coolers for ice and water. He also learned that many of our volunteers had the means and desire to store and tow a trailer. Ben proposed that he obtain and modify an enclosed trailer to suit our needs, and Dan agreed this would make things easier for us.

Ben proceeded to find and facilitate the purchase of a relatively new, lightly used trailer, and then prepared drawings showing shelves, racks, and fittings to accommodate our belongings. We arranged for him to make a presentation to the Veterans Network at GE’s Durham Engine Facility, after which they offered to let him use space in their maintenance department to build-out the trailer. There is a nice lake on that property, to which we have been invited twice a summer for the past few years, and our program is well known by the management.

Ben purchased the necessary materials and organized a work party at GE; the workers included other scouts, friends, and a few of our vets. The interior work was completed in one day, after which PHWFF logo decals were commercially applied to the exterior sides.

Ben passed the scoutmasters’ board of review and was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout in August 2018. We are very grateful to Ben for his donation of the finished trailer, and we were impressed by his dedication to solve a problem of ours that grew as our program expanded.