Ryan Peterson speaks at the Dodge County Civil War Memorial at Seminary Park in Wasioja, summer of 2011. He built 30 benches for the memorial for his Eagle Scout project.
By Ruth Hanson
Ryan Peterson has been named the Eagle Scout of the Year by the Minnesota American Legion and Auxiliary.
It has been a long journey for the 18-year-old son of Steven and Nancy Peterson.
It began when he was a six-year-old Triton Elementary School first grader Tiger Cub.
"I joined the Cub Scouts because some of my friends did," he said. "It was fun. My mom was one of the assistant leaders. We camped in our back yards."
He went on to become a Wolf, a Bear and then two years as a Webelo.
As soon as he became a Boy Scout in 2006, he started going through the ranks - a Tenderfoot, then a Second Class Scout, a First Class Scout, a Star Scout, a Life Scout and finally an Eagle.
"I think I stayed in Scouting because of the friendships - and the outdoor experiences," Ryan said. "When I became a Boy Scout, we started having more extensive camping. I went to Camp Tomahawk in northern Wisconsin several times. I went to Many Points in northern Minnesota. I went backpacking in the Black Hills twice and to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico twice. I went rafting and kayaking in White Water. All of that was tons of fun."
As soon as he was a Boy Scout, he started earning badges. He said they were mainly athletic and often earned while he was camping, like swimming and backpacking on trails.
At first he belonged to Troop 58 in West Concord, then switched to Troop 231 in eighth grade in Kasson.
"At that time the Kasson troop was more active, had more members and went on more trips," he explained.
He is still a member of the Kasson troop.
He became the Eagle of the Year for Minnesota early in April this year.
"I got a phone call, saying 'Congratulations,'" he said, smiling. "And a letter in the mail soon after."
He still goes to troop meetings and is a leader for the younger boys.
Along the way he was also active in 4-H, starting at about the same age.
"The programs are similar, but 4-H has a lot more creative development," he said. "Scouting is more outdoors and more leadership. I was a member of the Eden Progressive Gophers and then switched to the Zumbro Rockets."
He exhibited at many county and state fairs.
He lived in the country, not far from Wasioja, so it was natural for him to have animals. He had a dog, cats and rabbits - and later on, sheep. He said he did a lot of building projects and enjoyed making posters.
"It was fun and I had different friends," he said.
To become an Eagle, Scouts have to do a major project. Ryan made 33 Leopold benches as memorials to Civil War veterans, with the help of other Scouts in Troop 231 and a mentor named John Kvasnicka.
"He is a very helpful guy," Ryan said. "He donated his time and shop and equipment."
The benches were very helpful to the people who went to Wasioja Civil War Days in July of 2011. Ryan was part of the Third Minnesota Infantry Division and participated in their battles.
He has played "Taps" on his trumpet and read "In Flanders Field" at a number of ceremonies.
Along his busy trail, he has not neglected his school studies. He will graduate valedictorian from Triton High School in a few weeks in the Class of 2013.
"Ryan is an excellent student and possesses a mature attitude toward learning," Brett Joyce, the high school principal, wrote. "He is at the top of his class with a 3.923 GPA."
His senior project is rebuilding a 1979 Allis Chalmer 7000 tractor.
"I'm waiting for warm weather so I can paint it," he said.
He was active in school activities, especially National Honor Society, band and theater.
Ryan has also been active at Evangel United Methodist Church "as a member of church youth group, Sunday School classes, youth mission team and many trips, music ensembles, Technology Team for Sunday worship and a regular attendee at worship," Pastor Jeffrey Utecht, wrote.
Ryan is excited about his plans to study for a mechanical engineering degree at North Dakota State University next fall. He will continue working at Fleet Farm in the farm department in Rochester until then.
He will play "Taps" and read "In Flanders Field" one last time this Memorial Day.