The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who have traditionally placed American flags on the graves of veterans at veterans’ cemeteries on Memorial Day have been barred from doing so because of the coronavirus crisis.
The Scouts cannot perform their acts of honor because the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has banned public events at the sites, Fox News reports, adding, “On Long Island, N.Y., where more than 500,000 veterans are buried at two national military cemeteries, there are demands for the VA to reconsider and rescind the ban.”
Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone told Fox News, “If we can’t figure out a way to make sure we are placing flags at their graves to honor them, then something is seriously wrong … What we’re asking the VA to do is, rather than have a blanket policy across the country, allow the national cemeteries at the local level, to make this determination in conjunction with the local health department. We will take the responsibility to say that this flag placement plan meets the state and national guidelines but give us that opportunity to do it, allow us to honor our fallen heroes.” He continued, “We just commemorated VE Day, this is the generation that lived through the adversity of the great depression, they won World War Two. What is it going to say about our generation if we can’t figure out a way to honor the greatest generation by placing flags at their graves on Memorial Day?”
18-year-old Eagle Scout Kieran Monaghan told Fox News, “It’s definitely a very emotional, kind of moving experience. Personally, my Dad is a veteran. He was deployed in Iraq for a year. It’s good to be able to pay our respects to our fallen heroes, it’s important to me, it’s important to the Boy Scouts, it’s important to the community and it’s something that I would hate to see go.” He added, “It is understandable to a point, but I don’t think that it is unreasonable to be able to put a plan together to be able to still accomplish the same thing we have done year after year, still following social distancing guidelines, having everybody masked up, with gloves on. It’s definitely doable.”
The U.S. National Cemetery Administration cited the “national emergency” as the reason that “VA national cemeteries will not be hosting public Memorial Day events,” including “mass placement of gravesite flags,” adding, “families and community members are welcome to visit national cemeteries throughout Memorial Day weekend and place individual flags on graves to honor friends and family. We ask that all visitors adhere to CDC, state and local health, safety, and travel guidelines.”
Michael Freeman, associate editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines advised Scouts in 2018:
Always coordinate with the cemetery’s director when planning to volunteer. The director will know how much help is needed and where that help should be directed. The director might need flags placed at grave sites or along the main entrance, often referred to as an “avenue of flags,” or might not need any help at all.
… flags placed at graves should be erected in a uniform matter, usually one foot, centered and in front of the headstone or grave marker.
… For an “avenue of flags” display, flagpoles should be inserted and secured in an in-ground receptacle. The flags shouldn’t interfere with traffic … For all flag ceremonies, remember to follow the rules of flag etiquette. These include never letting the flag touch the ground and ensuring flags are in excellent condition.
… Volunteering at a cemetery for Memorial Day is a great way to teach Scouts about national and local history, community service and patriotism. It can also be an opportunity to fulfill service hours and rank requirements, but more importantly, it’s a chance to impart a sense of respect for those who have died for our freedoms.
Remind Scouts to follow cemetery rules, refrain from rowdiness and to stay on designated paths
Author: Hank Berrien