Boy Scouts had little concern for the weather as they gathered at Memorial Park Cemetery to place American flags on veterans' graves.
“Even if it rains, we won't melt,” said Bob Gray, Eagle District chairman. “What veterans have gone though, we can certainly stand out in the rain.”
Thursday started out as a rainy day, but the sun had appeared by the time 200 Boy Scouts and a few Girl Scouts fanned out over the cemetery with nearly 5,000 flags.
In 2006, the Scouts took over the Memorial Day weekend duty from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion.
“I make sure the flags are set out, keep people running, watch for stragglers, keep giving out assignments, and make sure it all runs smoothly,” said Dan Williams, the Boy Scout in charge of the event.
“It's a good time to celebrate our veterans and show how much we appreciate what they do,” said Josh Bruza, a Star Scout. “They fight for our freedom, and because of all they went through is how we get to live like this today.”
Michael Vallejo said he knows what he is doing is for a great cause. When asked what he would say to a fallen vet today if he could, Vallejo said, “I would say thank you for your service and unselfishness.”
Vallejo said the cemetery donates the flags. After Memorial Day, the Scouts will go back and collect the flags.
Gray, who has been involved with Scouting for 50 years, said the event supports the families of veterans and gives the youths a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
“We see families and widows. They appreciate that the boys do this, and this gives the boys appreciation of what God and country is all about,” he said. “There's a lot of things wrong with this country, but there's a lot of things right with it, and this is one of those right things.”
Service and respect
Gray said service and respect for the flag are Boy Scout tenets.
“You'll notice, when the boys put the flags on the graves, the respect that they show for the flag,” he said. All members, from Tiger Cubs to Eagle Scouts, know how to do a flag ceremony and treat the flag with respect, he said.
“Being a veteran, I have a tendency to think about the guys at the grave site,” said Renny Reeves, a military veteran with more than 60 years of Scouting experience. “I think about their sacrifices and service.”
“They gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Eagle Scout Seth Truitt. Since the soldiers were willing to sacrifice their lives, the Scouts are more than happy to “sacrifice their afternoon to show support for our veterans,” he said.
Sam Gray, Bob Gray's son, also helped place flags and said the family has a personal connection to the cemetery.
Sam Gray's great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War, his uncle who served in the Korean War and other uncles who were World War II veterans are buried at the cemetery. He said he wishes he could meet them and thank them personally.