Nearly 25 boys from Cub Scout Pack 210 in Whiteland, Ind., volunteered this week to help the American Overseas Memorial Day Association (AOMDA) and The American Legion send U.S. flags to be placed at isolated graves of America's war dead in France.
On Monday, the Scouts and their parents prepared 125 mailing tubes for 183 remote burials that receive flags from AOMDA each year – sticking on address labels, then placing a certain number of flags and instruction letters in each tube.
FedEx has offered to ship the flags, which will arrive at their destinations in time for Memorial Day. Some are headed for village cemeteries, far from the larger American World War I and World War II cemeteries. Others will dot the French countryside, marking spots where a U.S. soldier fell in battle or an aviator's plane crashed.
The Scouts listened as their leaders explained how French towns, civic organizations and local Scout units will see that the U.S. flags are placed prior to Memorial Day. They also learned that it's their patriotic duty to recognize all Americans who lost their lives in service to our country, wherever their remains.
"There's a greater appreciation and understanding of that sacrifice when a Scout actually places his hands on a flag that will decorate a fallen soldier's grave," said Joe Moore, Pack 210's Cubmaster.
In the early 1920s, AOMDA's founders – who were Legionnaires at Paris Post 1 – asked The American Legion to establish a permanent endowment to cover the costs of decorating the overseas graves of the nation's soldiers, sailors and Marines. Interest generated by that fund today purchases U.S. flags to be placed at the headstones of America's war dead in Europe.
"Memorial Day remembrance is the focal point of what we have done since World War I," said Ray Shearer, a Marine Corps veteran and Legionnaire who serves on AOMDA's board of trustees. "Involving our youth and Scouts today is key to educating future generations about why that's so important."
To become a member of AOMDA or learn more about its mission, click here.