Missouri City high school student Grant Hanson is passionate about history and inspired both by World War I and those too young to fight who sacrificed their time and safety for the war effort.
So when it came time for the 17-year-old to choose an Eagle Scout project, creating a museum exhibit featuring artifacts used by Boy Scouts during World War I seemed like a natural fit. The exhibit opened Saturday at the Museum of the American GI in College Station.
Hanson participates in historical reenactments with the 6th Cavalry Historical Association and with the Museum of the American GI. In addition to a love for history, he has a passion for scouting, and put a lot of preparation and planning into what would become his Eagle Scout project — the final step before becoming an Eagle Scout. Such a project requires scouts complete a major act of service while working in a leadership position. Last year, Hanson — who gets much of his love for the past from his maternal grandfather, who is a former Boy Scout and a Vietnam War veteran — had the idea to create a museum exhibit that made use of his own personal collection of historical artifacts purchased over time.
“I feel like World War I is underappreciated, and the Boy Scouts had a role to play in that war,” Hanson explained. “The Boy Scouts had only been around seven years [when the war started], and [their involvement] became the reason they are so popular, the reason membership soared into the millions. People realized how useful the Scouts were.”
Hanson, flanked by his friends and family, stood with his exhibit on display in a glass case at the GI Museum on Saturday. The case held Boy Scout uniform pieces from World War I, as well as a canteen, flags, an axe, medals and other trinkets. For several hours, the uniformed teen educated museum visitors on Boy Scouts’ involvement in the war effort. Scouts too young to enlist in the military, he explained, would raise money for war bonds, farm, scan the waters for German U-Boats and even act as first responders.
“That puts it in perspective,” he said. “I can hardly imagine responding to a factory explosion when I was 14. Mostly knowing the history makes me feel awfully lucky. I haven’t had to watch the coast for enemy ships or treat the wounded or help in hospitals when people contracted Spanish influenza. It makes me think of my modern comforts, and think that I could be a lot tougher.”
For the leadership aspect of the project, Hanson was able to direct a team of his friends and siblings — fellow Scouts — who volunteered to assemble transport for the exhibit, and perform some demonstrations at the museum on Saturday. Hanson noted that he was thankful to be able to work with the GI Museum for his project, and has enjoyed establishing a relationship with the museum over the past few years by participating in reenactments.
Leisha Mullins, the museum’s director, said she is pleased to have Hanson share his artifacts with the museum. She’s seen something special in the teenager since he started volunteering for events with the museum.
“[Hanson] is fastidious in regards to reenactments,” she said. “His uniforms have been pristine. He is a true living historian, not just a reenactor. Reenactors like role playing and pretending to be in battles. But living historians want to educate. They are very correct in uniform, and want to educate the public. [Hanson] is wonderful at doing that.”
Sometimes organizations working with an Eagle Scout project do accommodate expensive projects, Mullins said, but Hanson provided all artifacts and even exhibit signage from his own collection or by using his own money.
“I wasn’t gonna make people pay me for being a nerd,” Hanson said.
He handed Mullins a small cash donation on his way out of the building on Saturday, explaining that he wanted to give it since she hadn’t charged him admission to present his exhibit.
The Boy Scout display will be available for the public to view through August at the museum, located at 19124 Texas 6.