After graduating from high school in Oconee County, Eagle Scout Devin Smith decided to join the Army because he wanted to serve his country.
He has now been an active member for over a year, and he recently spent three months at Fort McCoy U.S. Army Base in Wisconsin working on various construction and engineering projects to support thousands of Afghan refugees who are temporarily staying at the base.
One project Smith worked on involved constructing walkways for people to move between buildings throughout the process of vaccinating all of the refugees. The wooden walkways were useful both for protecting guests’ feet from the gravel beneath and for mitigating the language barrier by directing a clear walking path as they moved through the intake processes.
This project in particular was reminiscent of the Eagle Scout project Smith completed at the age of 17, in which he built a bridge at the Hardigree Wildlife Sanctuary.
Smith said he spent a lot of time at the sanctuary growing up and chose that project as a way to give back and help the community. The bridge he built at Hardigree cut a path across the river, allowing nature-goers to cut down the approximate two-mile hike of walking around the river.
“It was a challenge, and I really enjoyed the people that work at Hardigree Wildlife Sanctuary, so I wanted to help,” he said.
Along with building the walkways, Smith’s time at Fort McCoy was spent helping build over 200 baby gates for children, another 200 signs to label buildings and clotheslines for guests to dry their laundry. He also worked in the clothing shop and escorted refugees on the same walkways he built.
Smith said working at the clothing shop in particular was “a blast,” as he loved seeing the looks on kids’ faces when they got new clothes and supplies.
“They’ve been through a lot,” he said. “And it’s really cool seeing them happy and handing them a backpack and getting a hug.”
Fort McCoy hosts over 13,000 refugees, and over half of them are children, according to an article from the Wisconsin State Journal.
For more on this story, see the Nov. 18 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website.