Senior's Project Has Evolved Into More

St. Marys Memorial High School senior Rebecca Dominguez tells St. Marys Rotarians about her Honoring Hometown Heroes project and gives them an update on it Wednesday.
Managing Editor

Memorial High School senior Rebecca Dominguez’s Girl Scout project has not only affected the community in a positive way, but it has also given her a number of opportunities that she may have never experienced had she not taken on such a project. The senior told St. Marys Rotarians about those opportunities and shared what the project — Honoring Hometown Heroes — has meant to her on Wednesday.

“My grandpa is a veteran and he was one of the first banners to go up so seeing his reaction really meant a lot to me,” Dominguez said as she explained what had led her to keep the yearlong project going. “And when I did my ceremony for Veterans Day in 2018, I had people that I didn’t know and mothers coming up to me crying and hugging me. I had never had that happen to me so that was a big motivator. People say ‘thank you,’ but when someone comes up to hug you and show you their gratitude, it meant a lot to me.”

Dominguez — a member of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio — spearheaded the Gold Award project by placing banners on light poles downtown with pictures of local veterans who have served in the military. 

The purpose of the Gold Award — the highest award in Girls Scouts — is that any project is ongoing and does not end. Dominguez is also a Jefferson Award for Public Service recipient — which is given at both national and local levels, and recognizes those individuals who have embodied the spirit of service.

Open only to girls in high school, the Girl Scout Gold Award is the most prestigious award and the most difficult to earn, according to the Girl Scouts’ website. After she was approved, Dominguez said she had to put together a budget then talked to the St. Marys VFW Post No. 9289 and the American Legion about the project — in which both organizations sponsored her project.

The original goal was to have around 30 veteran banners up throughout downtown St. Marys on Spring and Main streets year round, however, the project blossomed into something bigger. Banners are now down Spring, Spruce and Main streets as well as Fortman Drive, Indiana Avenue, Celina and Jackson roads. The project has led to citywide recognition, drawn interest from neighboring communities to place veteran banners in their towns and has created friendships from all over. The senior said currently there are 354 veterans featured on banners throughout town.

The project has also progressed through Facebook. 

Dominguez said she decided to write a daily post featuring a veteran on the Honoring Hometown Heroes Facebook page adding that it is a great way to honor veterans and allow people to see the banners and a veteran’s accomplishments better than if they were driving past them.

The post includes a picture of a veteran’s banner, information about the veteran that was shared by the family and sometimes additional research about the battles a veteran was involved in as well as information about any medals awarded and the significance of those awards. Dominguez said the Facebook page has followers ranging from 30 states, multiple countries and 50 cities throughout Ohio.

“Seeing the reactions of families and friends when their loved ones are recognized and appreciated by the community and seeing our community voice its pride and thankfulness and to help educate students in our community about their heritage and about those who have sacrificed for this community has brought me great joy,” Dominguez said.

The Girl Scout project has also given the senior a number of opportunities, such as serving as a guardian for the Flag City Honor Flight on Sept. 24. 

A guardian is someone who assists a veteran on an honor flight to Washington D.C. — including one-on-one assistance with boarding, handicap assistance, taking pictures and making sure the veteran’s experience is exceptional.

Dominguez said her group consisted of 18 veterans, including a 98-year-old World War II veteran — making him the oldest veteran who had gone on an Honor Flight. Dominguez was a guardian for Lewis Hicks of McGuffey — an Army veteran who served during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Their trip to D.C. including seeing the WWII and Korean War memorials, the Vietnam Wall, the Washington and Lincoln monuments, the Air Force Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.

Dominguez added that she stays in contact with Hicks and said that she felt like she gained a family member because of this opportunity.

The senior will finish her project throughout the rest of the school year and added that the VFW has agreed to continue the project once she leaves for college — which she said she hopes to attend Duke University to study political science, human behavior and pre-law — but her Gold Award project has become much more than placing banners on city streets, it has become
 her life.

“This project has given me so many opportunities to meet others to and get involved in other projects that extend past St. Marys,” she said. “It has allowed me to build bridges to other communities to promote the positive values of Girl Scouts and make our community proud of our hometown heroes. It has also given me one of the most amazing experiences of my life — getting to know the brave men and women who have served out country. Giving back to them in a small way and getting to see firsthand what incredible men and women they are, I am very thankful to my community, mentors and to our hometown heroes.”