2021 Eagle Scout Project of the Year: He built an exhibit to honor heroes of D-Day

All photos courtesy of Christopher Adam

A simple question spoke volumes.

“Raise your hand if you know what D-Day is,” the teacher said one day in Christopher Adam’s eighth grade honors history class.

Christopher’s hand went up. He looked around, and only two other hands were raised. Just three members of the class of 25 knew that D-Day — June 6, 1944 — is the day the Allies invaded Western Europe in World War II.

“It was sad to see that students my age didn’t know about the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation,” Christopher says. “With my Eagle project on the horizon, I thought it would be good to memorialize them and be able to educate people my age about what they did for us.”

In 2019, Christopher did precisely that. For his Eagle Scout service project, he organized a team that designed and constructed a permanent D-Day exhibit at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pa., the U.S. Army’s primary historical research facility.

The exhibit, called “Liberation Pointe,” includes full-scale replica bronze statues of two soldiers landing on the beaches of Normandy. The statues are enclosed in a pentagon of marble — with each side representing a different D-Day beach and displaying what took place there, including eyewitness accounts from three veterans.

The exhibit was completed in 2019 during the 75th anniversary year of the D-Day invasion. Christopher and his team worked for 18 months, and the project involved nearly $200,000 in donated labor and materials.

For his remarkable efforts to memorialize this part of history and educate others, Christopher Thomas Adam, a member of Troop 88 of Mechanicsburg, Pa., received the 2021 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Service Project of the Year Award.

(Why 2021 when the project was completed in 2019? Adams Award eligibility is determined by when a young person completes their Eagle Scout board of review, not when they completed their project. For the 2021 award, eligible Eagle Scouts had to have passed their Eagle board of review between Jan. 1, 2020, and Feb. 8, 2021.)

Beyond an impressive addition to his résumé, Christopher also receives $2,500 for his future education or to attend a national or international Scouting event or facility. Christopher’s council, the New Birth of Freedom Council, also receives $2,500.

Bryan on Scouting talked to Christopher to learn more.

Heroes, never forgotten

Each passing year, our country’s memories of World War II continue to fade — a reality evidenced by that show-of-hands test from Christopher’s history class.

When Christopher began telling the members of his community — elected officials, business owners and other citizens — about his project, he told them how he wanted to help combat those fading memories.

“Many older people realize that my generation is starting to forget about the sacrifice of these great men and women who fought in World War II,” he says. “When the community understood that the goal of my project was to honor the sacrifices of these vets, they saw my passion and wanted to be part of the project.”

To deepen his own connection to the events, Christopher interviewed World War II veterans. He says these heroes “taught me everything I could ever learn about selflessness.”

He listened as they shared jaw-dropping stories of survival — staying alive after their ships were bombed or they were sent to prisoner-of-war camps.

“I cannot put a price on the valuable experience I got from working with them,” he says. “At the ages of 95, 97, even 99 years old, these men are still giving back, still happy to tell stories, answer questions, do whatever they can to help the country. These World War II vets, like all veterans, have taught me the true spirit of being an American.

“They are truly the greatest generation, and it was my pleasure to be able to honor them.”

Lessons learned

A project this ambitious was bound to make headlines, and it did just that. Christopher learned to communicate with groups both big and small — experiencing firsthand how to network, write professional emails, address large groups and speak to reporters.

“I had to work outside my comfort zone, but after doing it a few times, like anything, it became easier and easier,” he says. “Now I can address larger crowds, and I am comfortable with it.”

He learned, too, that the giant wheel of government can be slow to move. He had to receive approval after approval — each one delaying work by weeks and then months. The proposal eventually ended up on the desk of the Secretary of the Army, who signed the final OK.

With the groundbreaking scheduled, Christopher discovered that working with Scouts presented its own challenges.

“It was very rewarding but very stressful at the same time,” he says. “When I was working with my friends, Scouts and professionals all at the same time, I had to change the way I would address them to best achieve the results.”

Christopher says he used the EDGE method — explain, demonstrate, guide, enable — to lead the group without micromanaging their every move.

“I also tried to lead as I would want to be led,” he says, “and follow as I would want someone to follow me.”

Help from Mom

The certificate for the 2021 Adams Award bears just one name, but Christopher knows that he didn’t do it alone.

While he was helped by dozens of people, he says his biggest support came from his mom.

When Christopher started his project, he couldn’t yet drive, so his mom was his chauffeur, driving him to more than 50 meetings with various potential project donors.

She was also his public-speaking coach (“to show me how to present information and talk to people”), his brainstorming buddy (“to help address all the different decisions I had to make along the way”) and his all-around life coach (“to support me to persevere and complete the project”).

‘The sky’s the limit’

Not every Eagle project will take 18 months and nearly $200,000 in donated time, materials and money.

But Christopher still encourages his fellow Eagles-to-be to think big.

“The sky’s the limit,” he says. “Pick a subject or cause you are truly passionate about. This is why I was so involved in my project — I really wanted to honor these World War II veterans.”

Selecting a meaningful purpose is key, Christopher says, because it makes the work seem less like work.

“What you put into this project is what you will get out of it,” he says.

Next on the horizon

After high school, Christopher wants to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy and become a jet pilot.

Now that he’s seen the commitment of the men and women who served our country before him, he’s ready to make a similar commitment himself.

Or, to put it another way: this Eagle is ready to fly.

2021 Eagle Scout Projects of the Year

This post is part of our series spotlighting Eagle Scouts who received the Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award in 2021. Here are the four winners:

2021 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award recipients

  • National winner (representing the Northeast Region): Christopher Thomas Adam of the New Birth of Freedom Council, who led a team that designed and constructed an educational exhibit about D-Day, the Normandy landings in World War II
  • Central Region winner: Logan Goodbred of the Three Fires Council, who led a team that created a memorial for first responders
  • Southern Region winner: Hannah Kathryn Bailey of the Middle Tennessee Council, who led a team that installed mile markers and informational kiosks along the Collins River
  • Western Region winner: Mateo David Sabio Paese of the Pacific Skyline Council, who led a team that assembled water filtration systems at 14 different villages in Honduras

How to nominate an Eagle Scout for the Adams Award

If you know an Eagle Scout whose project is worthy of consideration for the Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year award, or ESSPY, please nominate them.

Find a nomination form, judging criteria and more information at this link.

Any Eagle Scout, their parents or any registered BSA volunteer (with the Eagle Scout’s permission) may submit an Eagle Scout service project for consideration. Each council will then nominate one outstanding project to the National Eagle Scout Association.

About Bryan Wendell 3161 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.