Most high school students cannot claim to have left a literal, physical mark on their city, but Daniel Strauss can.
For his Eagle Scout project, the 17-year-old New Albany High School senior designed and built a brick box at New Albany Village Hall, 99 W. Main St. for residents to properly retire old U.S. flags.
Flags should be retired when they start to fray or when they become bleached by the sun, Strauss said. One respectfully disposes of flags by burning them, he said -- something his Boy Scout Troop 361 does once per year.
Strauss -- whose grandfather, Ed Moskal, served in the U.S. Navy and Air Force and whose cousin, Dylon Moskal, will enlist in the U.S. Marines -- said respecting flags and taking care of them at home with the same values soldiers hold for their nation while abroad mean a lot to him.
Strauss earned the rank of Eagle Scout this fall after completing the flag-retirement box. A project demonstrating community service and leadership is required to be awarded the rank of Eagle, he said.
He said he got his idea from his Scoutmaster, Brad Priest.
Scouts often come to him asking for suggestions for Eagle projects, Priest said.
"I thought he could take on something that was bigger than your normal project," he said.
Each year during his troop's summer camp, Scouts retire worn-out flags, Priest said.
Throughout the year, Priest often gets phone calls and emails asking what to do with the flags, he said.
Priest thought having a permanent structure at which the community could discard the flags would be beneficial, he said. His troop would pick up the flags monthly and then store them until the summer, when they could be retired respectfully, he said.
Although flag burning has a negative connotation, fire is the respectful way to retire a flag, Priest said.
"We do actually burn them respectfully," he said.
The Scouts cut the old flags into strips, keeping the union -- the blue portion of the flag -- intact, Priest said. Scouts take turns placing their parts of the flag onto a fire, which burns all night until all that remains is ash, he said.
"It's a very solemn and respectful ceremony that we try to do," he said.
The next day, the Scouts can keep or bury the metal grommets that are not destroyed by the fire, Priest said.
Priest said he didn't participate in building the flag-retirement box to allow Strauss to lead. He was taken aback, he said, when he saw the finished product.
"I'm just very proud of him," Priest said.
Strauss said he raised $600 for his project in donations and was also able to obtain discounts from hardware suppliers.
His father, Michael Strauss, had created similar projects with brick and taught him what to do, he said.
Although his son came up with the design, Michael Strauss helped with some construction ideas, he said, describing himself as a "general DIY guy."
Michael Strauss said Daniel's project is "pretty substantial," possessing not only value but a degree of permanence. Scouts years from now might wonder who built the flag box because of that, he said.
"It will be neat," Michael Strauss said.
Daniel Strauss started designing the box about 18 months ago, working with a 3D design program he had learned how to use in school, he said.
He took his idea to Village Hall and gained approval, and then he worked with a city building inspector, he said.
Strauss led his fellow Scouts in building the box of brick and flagstone during the summer, with help from his father, he said. It was completed at the beginning of the school year, he said.
Scouting has been part of Strauss' life for some time. He joined the Cub Scouts in first grade and the Boy Scouts in fifth grade, he said.
He wants to continue participating in scouting after graduating high school. That is something he can do until age 21, when he can help as an adult leader, he said.
The experience, Strauss said, has instilled in him communication and leadership skills, along with integrity.
"It's a great way to learn how to teach people stuff," he said.
Although he hasn't chosen a college, Strauss said, he knows he wants to study chemical engineering.
He also wants to backpack the Appalachian Trail in its entirety someday -- he spent a week on the trail this past summer for his senior seminar project, a New Albany High School graduation requirement.
Strauss said he is an avid backpacker. Throughout his scouting career, he said, he has visited Florida, Minnesota and New Mexico, engaging in such outdoor activities as backpacking and boating.
He said he enjoys pushing himself to his limits.
"You think you can do this much, but then you get surprised," Strauss said.