It was a picture-perfect Memorial Day morning at Highland Memorial Park Cemetery as dozens of Scouts from Troop 20 Johnston and their parents placed flags at the graves of fallen soldiers.
Cubmaster Mark DaPonte said there were Scouts from all age ranges trekking across the cemetery, taking advantage of the first beautiful morning the event has enjoyed in the past several years. The Scouts took more than two hours to disperse 1,300 flags throughout the park, but DaPonte said they are always welcoming more volunteers and flag donations.
“Whenever we see folks here visiting the graves of their loved ones, they’re just so happy, and they say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ and they see the boys, some of them, I’ve had several people walk up to the boys and thank them from across the cemetery,” DaPonte said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”
Scouts were instructed to scour grave markers for any sort of military membership, rank or war in which soldiers had served. Some stones were given new markers denoting service, for which the boys and girls were on the lookout.
DaPonte said he estimates almost every Scout in the troop gets involved in the annual flag placement. Some even worked with their parents to clear some brush away from covered stones.
“The kids come in boisterous and excited, and the kids then, as you see, they really take it seriously, and they really learn a little bit about what these people did for the country,” DaPonte said, overlooking several nearby Scouts eagerly driving flags into the ground.
DaPonte thanked Highland Memorial Park president Joseph Swift and his staff shortly before the opening ceremonies, which saw the Scouts gather in front of the American flag for their oath and a salute. Shortly after, groups dispersed with parent leaders to cover an immense amount of ground. DaPonte quipped that they could have stayed all day and still have ground left uncovered.
DaPonte said the event is one that sticks with the Scouts for the rest of their lives.
“At the level the kids are, at this age, I think this is the best thing that they could do, and as they grow, they learn more and some of the things we do at the Scouts they remember what they did here and they move on and they visit places like the U.S.S. Salem and Battleship Cove and they kind of make the connection,” DaPonte said.
He encouraged any readers interested in donating more flags to do so as well. Those who would like to contribute can reach Swift at 231-9120.
(Text and photos by Jacob Marrocco)