This Memorial Day weekend, like the ones prior, my kids and I participated in the flag placement ceremony at Willamette National Cemetery with thousands of other Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts in the area. This is an awe-inspiring effort to honor our fallen heroes. Filled with just enough pomp and circumstance, the Thursday before the Memorial Day weekend gives the Scouts a unique opportunity to participate in a solemn remembrance of our deceased combat veterans, and oftentimes their spouses as well.
The ceremony was solemn and reflective. This year the weather was uncharacteristically stellar — it often rains, but the Scouts are always out there anyway. Our unit had six dads, one grandpa, four moms, several siblings, and 13 Scouts participating in this year’s event. The VFW Band played patriotic songs as a prelude. The formal ceremony began with a military flyover, followed by a flag procession. After a few remarks by dignitaries, the main flag was lowered to half mast as a Scout played Taps. The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute, and the Scouts were released to their assigned sections.
Scouts are instructed to place a flag at the front of the grave marker, state the name of the person interred, and give a Scout Salute. This is often the only visit these grave markers will receive throughout the year, so it’s an important remembrance for each individual sacrifice. Some of the grave sites stretch all the way back to veterans of the Spanish American War. Here’s the cool part: each year there are about 1,500 Scouts who participate, honoring over 140,000 grave sites — and they get it all done in just about one hour.
This solemn ceremony was a break from a lot of the troubles modern life can signify. The Scouts were off their electronic devices for several hours. We honored our past and our traditions. We were able to leave behind political turmoil, societal unrest, worries about bills, and the divisions we see on the news every day. It was a time to come together, no matter our backgrounds, and remember what unites us and what keeps us free as a nation. It was an opportunity to remember and honor the best of what America offers.
Being a Boy Scout and achieving my Eagle award gave me some of my favorite childhood memories. I always knew I wanted to be a dad. Long before I was ready to settle down and get married, I knew that I would someday be a dad. I take this gig pretty seriously, so it means a lot to be able to share some of the cool stuff from my childhood with my children. I remember marching in parades, cleaning up cemeteries on Memorial Day, and listening to speeches honoring those who served in combat.
My son is currently 2nd Class in Boy Scouts, and my daughter also participates in American Heritage Girls, so she was able to participate in uniform as well. As it was with me, I suspect that this will mean more to them when they get older and are truly able to appreciate the significance of saying thank you to our fallen veterans.
Here are some photos from this year’s ceremony to show just a little of the awe that was inspired.