For some Boy Scouts, the Eagle Scout rank is achieved after seven full years of gradual effort. For a very select, very dedicated few—rarities like 12-year-old Jonah Reardon of La Grange—it can take less than two years of constant hard work.
It still takes an Eagle Project, though, and Reardon will be fulfilling his on Nov. 24 when he hosts a screening of the documentary On the Bridge at the La Grange Theatre to spotlight the dangers of post-traumatic stress disorder in military veterans.
Reardon got this idea after his first plan—a flagpole and flat outside the La Grange library—fell through. He heard NPR Worldview host Jerome McDonnell discussing the film and its revelations with its director, Oliver Morel.
“I decided to still do [a project about] veterans,” explained Reardon, who has military vets in his family. “I thought that PTSD was very important because when many veterans come home, they have PTSD, so I thought it was a really good project.”
On the Bridge (L'âme en sang) is a documentary exploring the lives of soldiers returning home from Iraq. It discusses at lengths the toll of PTSD and the growing number of veteran suicides.
The screening will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the La Grange Theatre and will feature appearances from vet Jason Moon, who appears in the film, and Sgt. Maj. Mark Bowman of the Illinois National Guard. The men will participate in a panel at the La Grange Library following the screening. (The show is free; donations will be accepted.)
Reardon said he hopes that seeing the film would make people think twice before signing up to fight overseas, as well as for others to support veterans dealing with PTSD.
“I think the real value of what he’s doing is just getting this in front of people where they can appreciate that if you see a veteran, hey, talk to him and realize that anything that happened over there is not his fault,” said Jonah’s dad, John.
A member of Troop 14 (First United Methodist Church), Reardon already has 42 merit badges, twice the number required for the Eagle rank. (“Merit badges are fun for me, so I get a lot of them done,” he said.) He said he wants to complete his Scouting accomplishments at a young age so he can focus on his studies later.
“I feel like if I do it earlier it’s a lot easier,” Reardon said. “Most people do it when they’re 17, almost 18, and it’s probably stressful when you have a lot more homework, way harder to get it done then.”
Reardon’s older brother Noah is already an Eagle Scout, which the family agreed was a huge help in grooving the path for Jonah’s rapid rise through the ranks of Scouting.