- Our Sites
- The News-Gazette
- NewsTalk 1400 WDWS-AM
- Lite Rock 97.5 WHMS
- 107.9 WKIO
- Community News
PAXTON — Esten Watson earned his Eagle Scout badge a year ago, but he “just didn’t have time” for an official Eagle Scout ceremony, so the ceremony never happened.
But just four days before the 18-year-old 2012 Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School graduate was to leave for basic training in the Illinois Army National Guard, his mother, Marilee Watson, decided it was time to honor her son’s achievements in the local Boy Scouts troop.
So she organized a last-minute Eagle Scout ceremony for Esten, coinciding with an open house to honor him as a newly enlisted soldier.
“Awesome,” Marilee Watson said of the turnout for the event held on Jan. 12 at the Vineyard Church in Paxton. “Friends, family came, and Esten’s staff sergeant, plus a lot of Scout people.”
During the event, Esten received his Eagle Scout badge. He had earned the badge after completing a project that involved painting portions of the inside of the First Lutheran Church in Paxton, where his family attended before joining the Vineyard Church. Esten said it took him a week to complete the project.
“I guess it really helped the church,” his mother said, “because it was something that kept getting pushed back and pushed back due to a lack of time and money.”
Following the ceremony, Esten, who enlisted in the National Guard in October after graduating from PBL in May, was honored with a reception and going-away party for basic training. He was given a cake with a patriotic theme, complete with an American flag made of frosting.
Esten said he had mixed emotions about leaving for basic training.
“I’m excited because I get to go do this whole new thing, but I’m not excited because it’s six months away from my family,” he said. “I’ve never been gone that long away from my family.”
Esten departed for nine weeks of basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., on Jan. 16. After graduating from basic training, he will undergo training to be a “light wield mechanic” for 13 weeks at Fort Lee, Va.
“So I’m looking at a six-month absence from my family,” he said.
His mother was “not too excited” about him leaving, Esten said.
“I am very sad but proud at the same time,” she said. “He’s made a life decision, and I’m fully supportive of that, and I’m very proud of him, but at the same time, the mommy in me is going to be sad that her baby is going away for such a length of time. I’ve never been away from him for more than two weeks at a time, and his birthday is during that time, too, so it’s kind of hard.”
Esten, who has an interest in mechanics and had initially planned to enroll at Lincoln Technical Institute in Indianapolis before joining the National Guard, said his job in the military will involve repairing jeeps and Humvees — “pretty much anything that doesn’t have a track on it, I work on.”
Esten Watson said he intends to further his education using the GI Bill after he leaves the military. He is enlisted for six years.