By CHRIS FASOLINO
---- — KEESEVILLE — A soldier leans on his rifle, helmet in his hands.
He gazes at three white crosses in the earth, remembering fallen comrades.
The image may evoke a distant battlefield, but it is, in fact, an installation in front of AmVets Post 87 in Keeseville.
Nearby is a cutout of the Liberty Bell, emblazoned with the phrase “Freedom is not Free.”
The figures are made of treated plywood that has been painted and primed, with pressure-treated wood for the supports of the Liberty Bell.
AmVets Commander Gary Baker said he chose the images to depict the spot “as a military post.”
They were made and installed as an Eagle Scout project by 18-year-old Quinn Jones of Morrisonville.
Quinn’s father, Russell Jones, is a nurse practitioner for the Plattsburgh Veterans Administration clinic. There, he met Baker, who is one of his patients. Their discussions eventually led to Quinn’s Eagle Scout project for the AmVets Post.
Once the installation idea was settled upon, they researched designs online. Baker chose the designs, and Quinn completed the project with support from Daniel’s Sign Co. in West Chazy.
However, Quinn faced a challenging deadline.
An Eagle Scout project must be completed before the candidate turns 18. That meant the installation had to be set up during the winter in order for it to be finished in time.
“The ground was still frozen,” Quinn Jones said. “We had to dig down pretty far.”
They also tried to seal the wood as thoroughly as possible, to prevent water from leaking in and then freezing.
Now, in July, the scene is very different. Quinn was concerned about the effects of the high winds from a recent brief but intense storm.
Examining his work, he voiced plans to put the figures back in the ground and re-cement them.
The softness of the ground, he noted, created vulnerability under conditions of high wind.
The figure of the soldier is kneeling upon a sandy field dotted with scrub. A few thistles are growing out of the sparse ground near his feet. In the distance, beyond the post’s unfinished building, a line of dark green conifers changes the landscape.
Suggestive of the lush Adirondack forests, the pines contrast starkly with the barren foreground and its image of grief and remembrance.
Quinn’s path to Eagle Scout began when he started in Cub Scouts at age 10.
“A lot of my friends in elementary school were in Cub Scouts, and we had fun. We had racing car derbies with wooden cars.”
Quinn also recalled the Bridging Ceremony when he and his friends moved Cub Scouts up to Boy Scouts, with its celebratory Blue and Gold Banquet.
To become an Eagle Scout, he had to earn 21 merit badges — half of them Eagle-required badges marked by a silver line.
Among them was the Pathfinder badge, which requires research into local history as well as knowledge of local landmarks and emergency information.
Quinn described the Earth Science badge as the one most meaningful to him.
“I’m a really big science buff, so that was a fun one to do.”
He learned about how to distinguish plants that are edible from those that are poisonous, and he studied local wildlife, including white-tailed deer and wild turkeys.
Quinn’s endurance was tested by the Klondike Derby, a winter camping event in Willsboro.
Scouts are challenged to start a fire without matches, using such materials as flint and steel. They must pull a sled up a frozen hill, and they practice ice-rescue techniques.
Another Klondike Derby event requires the construction and demolition of a simple bridge. Scouts lash wooden poles together using rope in order to form the bridge. They use it to cross a small stream, and then they dismantle it behind them.
Quinn’s father was impressed by the skills — and the character traits — that the Scouts develop through such events.
“They learn to survive in most conditions,” he said. “And they work together.”
ABOUT 100 MEMBERS
Baker, who served in the Marine Corps from 1971 to 1975, organized AmVets Post 87 in 2001.
“We’ve got about 100 members.”
AmVets, originally called American Veterans of World War II, is a service organization that works to support veterans and active military and provide community services while preserving freedom.
The property for the Keeseville post was purchased in 2005, Baker said. Work on the building needs to continue, and he also wants to do more in the way of community involvement.
“We’ve gotten through this far. It’s what I call a work in progress.”
The post has a bottle redemption center, and Baker is going to begin doing pickups of returnable bottles and cans, as well, which he hopes will generate funds.
“And I want people to know this is nonprofit — it all goes back to the community. We don’t try to hoard money away.”
Baker will be doing the pickups on Mondays and Tuesdays, allowing senior citizens and others with limited mobility to donate their bottles.
“Call me and leave a message with who you are, your location, etc., and I’ll come pick up the bottles,” he said.
The post is located at 1409 Route 9 in Keeseville, where the redemption center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
“And I’m always here early and late,” Baker said.
Reach him at 834-5157.