EL CENTRO – Hundreds of red, white and blue flags fluttered in the breeze at local cemeteries Friday as Troops 4076 and 4070 from El Centro and Imperial combined their efforts to mark graves with flags for Memorial Day in Evergreen Cemetery and at Memory Gardens in Imperial to honor those who served in the military.
Memorial Day is traditionally the day that military members who have died are remembered for their service.
Michael Macias, a Boy Scout from Troop 4070 in Imperial, placed many a flag on the graves of fallen soldiers while he also remembered those in his own family who have served, he said.
“Most of the military help us out by fighting for this country, so we pay our respects by putting our flags down,” said Macias.
The two troops have performed this traditional service for years, possibly since before 1976, according to some. For Memorial Day weekend, the Scouts place flags at every gravestone that signifies a military person is buried there.
According to Scoutmaster Victor Caldaron, there are at least 1,600 military graves they know of in Evergreen Cemetery. Caldaron said the troops have been performing the service since he was a Boy Scout himself.
Caldaron added that there may be some graves they miss, usually the ones that have personalized headstones. However, he encouraged the public to come with the Scouts to help identify these graves as well.
“I feel respect and honor for them because they used to fight for our country,” said Elliot Christianhouser, also from Troop 4070. “Some were either killed or suffered from something when they came back, but I’m thankful for what they did.”
Troop 4070 is also in charge of placing flags at Memory Gardens, a project started by Eagle Scout Jeffry Abatti. Abatti said he was inspired to help fix and reclaim Memory Gardens after he heard of a veteran asking, “What about these veterans?” Abatti wanted to make sure those veterans and the others who are buried in the cemetery are remembered and their final resting place lovingly maintained.
“They fought for the same reasons as those here, so I wanted to give them the same respect,” said Abatti.
Bobby Brock, a parent volunteer who has a son in Troop 4076 and is a former 4076 Boy Scout himself, stated the project it is something to help the boys understand doing great community service as well as respect those who served.
“It’s an important, solemn activity that the Scouts look forward to doing every year, because they recognize the significance of it,” said Brock, “and hopefully it provides some comfort to families that their loved ones are remembered.”
The flags will be taken down Monday evening.
The Boy Scouts’ traditions are deep set in American culture. It builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of citizenship, and promotes physical fitness. Not only does the group do the Memorial Day service, but they are also certified to retire flags and perform other memorial services for the public — actions that can instill a sense of duty to country that many carry on throughout their lives. Many Boy Scouts do eventually join the military, according to Brock. He said Troop 4070 lost one-time member Robert Boniface, a Green Beret in the U.S. Army, two months ago in Afghanistan.
The Scouts also place flags at the cemetery on Veterans Day.