By Michael Rowles
This Memorial Day weekend I had the privilege of watching youth from Great Neck’s local Scouts BSA unit, Troop 10, return to All-Saints Church to honor the veterans laid to rest on the church’s ground. Scouts endeavored to clean up each grave marker and place a new 50-state American flag, replacing any stained or worn flags present.
The Memorial Day Good Turn tradition is one of the oldest and largest ongoing service projects the Boy Scouts of America conducts. The tradition has endured for more than seven decades pausing only in times of caution such as during the height of last year’s COVID-19.
“Our Scouts learn the importance of duty to country and of honoring the people who served it through the values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law,” said Boy Scouts of America Chief Scout Executive Roger Mosby, a U.S. Navy veteran. “It is our privilege to show our gratitude to fallen service members who otherwise may not receive the attention they deserve during this trying time for our country.”
Representing area leadership, Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum and American Legion Post 160 Commander Louise McCann were in attendance. “I profoundly appreciate the efforts of our local Scouts who participate in this annual meaningful ceremony, and am thankful for their commitment to honoring our hometown heroes by placing flags at their gravesides,” said Birnbaum.
During the event, vivid storytelling was used to pay homage to some of the well-known veterans resting on the grounds. When asked what his greatest takeaway from participating in the event Don Panetta, one of the troop’s Scouter’s, said, “Every year somebody I don’t know places a flag on my father’s grave marker. It feels good doing something for someone I don’t know. It’s my way of saying thanks to that person.”
Using BSA’s four-step EDGE method to educate attendees on proper flag placement and care, experienced Scouters Explained the steps involved with gravesite and flag etiquette. These steps were then Demonstrated to the Scouts who were then Guided to properly do it themselves. Finally, the Scouts’ development was completed by Enabling them to go about the business of honoring the resting veterans by themselves.
Regarding the windy, cold, and rainy event Senior Patrol Leader Thomas Lo described how “All scouts showed astounding resilience during the flag placement and one of the major phrases that was said that day was, “What would the soldiers do in the bad weather? They would tough it out rain or shine.””
Thomas became the senior Scout in the unit in 2020 through a youth election process where Scouts chose their leaders. “It was an honor to be the Senior Scout in charge. We devised an organized plan in advance that led to a successful flag placing ceremony despite the rainy weather. It felt rewarding knowing that the scouts all gained something valuable from this experience.
As an adult Scouter, Kings Point professor and US Navy veteran myself, I was asked to take part by educating the Scouts on the significance of various adornments at gravesites including the popular placement of coins and rocks on markers.
After three decades in uniform performing the duties these young men are honoring, I am warmed by the knowledge that this generation will remember my brothers-in-arms when we commit to our eternal rest.
These Scouts become empowered with the knowledge and experience they gain from doing these service projects and the Scouting Movement as a whole.
Later this year all recovered flags will respectfully accompany the troop on their annual summer pilgrimage held upstate at Onteora Scout Reservation in Livingston Manor. There, during an evening program, the flags will be ceremoniously retired in the camp’s fire bowl.
The flag decommissioning will be recorded for posterity. This and images of Troop 10’s Memorial Day gravesite flag rehabilitation will be posted online to the unit’s website. To view these memories and learn more about the flag code and care, please visit this website, www.troop10greatneck.org.
Troop 10 meets at the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department on 25 Prospect Street on Mondays at 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm on school days. If you are interested in joining Troop 10, please contact Dr. Dwight J Rosenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.