Eagle Scout beautifies HAFB chapel grounds

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — For nearly a year, Wing Chaplain Erik Harp, of the 75th Air Base Wing, has been begging for some help to take care of the eyesore growing outside of the chapel — a matted mess of weeds, decomposed bark, rotted railroad ties and dead trees.Concerned church patrons and passers-by were regularly asking Harp when it would be fixed, but with budget constraints, Harp didn’t have it in his operations budget to pay the estimated $10,000 he received in bids to fix the landscaping. 

Finally, help came from Ben Decorte, a member of Hill AFB Troop 55, who was looking for an Eagle Scout project, and the Catholic Knights of Columbus, who were looking to assist in some community service. 

“It’s part of our DNA on base to be involved in community service, but we almost always look outside the base gate and we forget that Hill is our community,” Harp said. “I am pleased we had these organizations that looked within the base and were able to see that we needed help.”

Ben led his troop and the Knights of Columbus in the final phase of manpower May 16 in the pouring rain as they placed the 700-pound cement benches, raked slag rocks level, and placed a paver pathway. Now, the chapel has an entirely different look. 

“It is unreal to me because they exceeded the plan that was presented, making the space usable and maintenance-free,” Harp said. 

The reason for the decreased price is because Ben found a slag rock that is recyclable and doesn’t break down. He persuaded a local landscaping company to sell the rock for a steeply discounted price, so the total amount invested for the total project came to just over $3,300. 

“Working with all these Scouts and the Knights of Columbus, I’ve learned that if you have to do something big, it can change someone else’s point of view. There hasn’t been a project like this on base for a long time, so I hope to inspire other Scouts and people on base to help out,” Ben said. 

His Scoutmaster, John Hays, said this opportunity has taught Ben skills he can use throughout his life. “I’ve seen him grow and delegate the process. A lot of young people don’t get this chance until later in life, so that fact that he’s getting this experience young is a big deal, because this is what we do in the military every day,” Hays said. 

Ben is naturally a reserved, quiet person, according to his mom, Lorretta Decorte, so getting the chance to lead and delegate the tasks has been a huge learning opportunity for him. 

“He has come full circle by showing that he’s got that capability (to) actually pull this off,” Lorretta Decorte said. 

Working with the Catholic Knights of Columbus on the project was a win-win situation for all involved. “The Knights of Columbus are required to do charitable service and Ben was required to lead a charitable service, so it was a good situation,” said Ben’s dad, Chief Master Sgt. Mark Decorte.

Deputy Grand Knight William Villegas of the Hill AFB Knights of Columbus said this was one of many projects they have worked on since beginning the council at Hill in January. “This has been perfect for us to bridge the gap with Troop 55 on base by mentoring the next generation and helping the community like these projects,” Villegas said. “I like the whole idea of giving back to the community and helping the needy on base and off base. That’s what we’re all about.”