Joseph William Blaisse of Newtown Square, Pa., is The American Legion's Eagle Scout of the Year for 2014. A junior at Archbishop John Carroll High School and a member of Sons of The American Legion Squadron 926, Blaisse will receive a $10,000 college scholarship.
For his Eagle Scout project, "Be Prepared to Honor," Blaisse wanted to remind Scouts of the "limited time remaining to honor World War II veterans" and to bring greater public awareness to Philadelphia's new Honor Flight program. To accomplish his Eagle Scout mission, Blaisse partnered with Honor Flight Philadelphia to organize and lead an Honor Flight bus trip for 25 local veterans on June 15, 2013. He also set out to recruit 25 Scouts to serve as guardians.
Blaisse made his Eagle Scout mission known by creating a website (www.bepreparedtohonor.com ), handing out business cards, and making appearances on local radio shows and news stations. The first World War II veteran to sign up for the Honor Flight bus trip was Blaisse's grandfather, Bill Grogan. From there, his outreach efforts exceeded his expectations — more than 150 World War II veterans from the area and hundreds of volunteers asked to be a part of the June 15 Honor Flight bus trip.
"I never imagined how one Boy Scout, in search of 25 World War II veterans to honor, could wake up the City of Brotherly Love to realize just how little time remains to thank surviving men and women veterans of World War II," said Blaisse, a life Scout of Troop 315.
On June 15, six buses filled with 150 World War II veterans, volunteers and Scouts traveled to Washington, D.C., by police escort. The caravan returned to Delaware County that same evening for a welcome-home celebration that involved a cheering crowd of nearly 1,000 people, including Legion Riders.
"The publicity Joe (Blaisse) brought us tripled our volunteers, our donations and also the number of World War II veterans we could take to Washington on the Honor Flight trip," said Andrew Schiavello, president of Honor Flight Philadelphia. "Joe's leadership sparked new commitment across the Philadelphia region by him asking us all to be prepared to honor the men and women veterans of World War II. And we are all better for it."
Other awards Blaisse has received include the Valley Forge Trail Medal Award and the Boy Scouts of America World Conservation Award.
The American Legion also awarded a $2,500 scholarship to three runners-up: Luke Littman of Texas; James Heuser of Maryland; and Corey Castillo of Louisiana.