They deserve a flag… Yet many veterans are left out
In May 2014, as he did for the last 30 years, he helped decorate the graves of America’s veterans. In November of that year he rolled into that same cemetery for the last time and was laid to rest in a community mausoleum.
His name was Robert (Bob) Ruggieri, a Legionnaire, an American veteran, who served proudly in the United States Army Airborne. If you frequented the Texaco station in Merion, Pennsylvania, you might remember him as a friendly, helpful member of the service station team.
Each year, just before Memorial Day, Bob was among the Legionnaires who supported four local Scout troops who placed flags on the graves of America’s veterans. It is a tradition that dates back to just after the Civil War. Today we call it Memorial Day and it is a time to remember and honor those who risked all in service to our country. Bob Ruggieri was now buried in that very cemetery where he helped place thousands of flags decorating veteran’s graves. Ironically, Bob was laid to rest in a community mausoleum, a community mausoleum where there was no feasible way to attach a flag honoring his service.
Alex Pierce was one of the Boy Scouts who on a May afternoon in each of the last four years had joined with Bob in the time-honored tradition of “flag setting”. Alex became aware that Bob’s grave could receive no flag—he was told that there was no feasible way to place a flag on a community mausoleum, Bob’s mausoleum. Alex saw that as a wrong he was determined to make right.
While in a discussions with an American Legion member, then-Eagle Scout candidate Alex set out to discover a way for Bob and any veteran laid to rest in a community mausoleum to receive the flag they deserve. He set out to develop a universal solution which became the main component to Alex’s Eagle Scout Project. The result was a simple piece of plastic which holds a small flag against the face of the crypt and does not in any way damage or encroach on the surrounding stones. To honor Bob Ruggieri and his role, each plastic flag holder is cast with the initials of Robert (Bob) Ruggieri RR to acknowledge the veteran who inspired the project.
The universal flag holder that Alex developed has come to be known as the “Ruggieri Flag Holder”. The first of which was produced in plastic through the use of a three-dimensional micro computer printer like those now available in many computer stores. On May 14, 2016 the first Ruggieri Flag Holder was placed upon the face of the community mausoleum where Robert Ruggieri (RR) had been laid to rest. In a ceremony supported by The American Legion, American Legion Riders, Sons of The American Legion, and the American Legion Auxiliary, Bob Ruggieri was given the honor that all veterans deserve. While the Ruggieri family, members of the local scout troops, and local law enforcement looked on, American Legion 9th District Chaplain, retired U.S. Navy Chaplain Peter Gregory who had served for a time as Chaplain in Arlington National Cemetery presided over the ceremony. Robert (Bob) received an honor guard and 21 gun salute that he never had on the cold snowy November day 2 years earlier when he was first laid to rest. Bob served his country, became a member of the American Legion, and went on to serve this community and fellow veterans. In death, Bob Ruggieri had inspired an Eagle Scout to develop an ingenious little piece of plastic, a universal flag holder, the “Ruggieri Flag Holder”, that would ensure that the time-honored Memorial Day flag setting would leave no veteran out. In the words of Chaplain Gregory at the dedication ceremony, “well done Robert, you’ve done your part, rest easy.”
The ceremony, covered by the local news station, did more than just honor a veteran who inspired others by his commitment to his fellow veterans. The ceremony sent a public message to those families whose veterans are buried in public mausoleums. They no longer need to be left out from Memorial Day flag setting.
The American Legion Family played a role in the success of this project and the impact it is intended to have across the country. The American Legion Riders, in their own special way helped breathe life into the success of this project. Some Riders traveled over two and one half hours to provide the escort that preceded the dedication ceremony clearly helping to garner the local television station coverage. The Sons of The American Legion (SAL), Detachment of Pennsylvania in July 2016, honored Eagle Scout Alex Pierce for developing the Ruggieri Flag Holder and his commitment to America’s veterans. It was at that meeting in Harrisburg that an SAL detachment member stepped forward and offered to provide an introduction to the management of the injection mold company for which he worked. Subsequent meetings served to further improve the quality of the flag holder and substantially reduced production costs.
All cost for the project have been covered largely by fundraising through Alex’s family and the generosity of a local cemetery who believed in the project
To date, now, Eagle Scout Alex Pierce has delivered over 5000 Ruggieri Flag Holders at no cost to veteran families. Not a single veteran family has been charged for the receipt and delivery of the flag holder for their veteran. Private and corporate donations have continued to underwrite all costs for the project. Alex remains committed to provide the Ruggieri Flag Holder to all veteran families at absolutely no cost. Alex has applied to the IRS for a nonprofit status for the “Ruggieri Foundation” for which he is accepting private and corporate donations. All donations, 100% of the money, is used to underwrite the cost of production and delivery of the flag holders. No one associated with the project will derive any income from the production or delivery of the flag holder.
Eagle Scout Alex Pierce did not ignore the problem, he set out to fix it. The result was a lasting solution so all veterans can receive the Memorial Day honors they deserve. For information, or to support the mission, email email@example.com or send to the Robert Ruggieri Foundation -1420 Knox Road - Wynnewood, PA 19096.