American Forces Press Service
So when this upstate New York resident heard an older veteran talk about the hundreds of American flags he wanted his American Legion post to place in St. Mary’s Cemetery near Syracuse for Memorial Day, she had one question: “Would you like some help?”
That help turned out to be dozens of Girl Scouts with some as young as 5.
McCarthy, the co-leader of a troop, knew she’d be exposing the girls to the harsh reality that people die in wars. But she also wanted them to learn to show support for the military – both for veterans as well as those still serving.
So, with her urging, Girl Scouts from around the Syracuse area signed on to the mission and they launched the flag project last year.
“There was gratitude and sadness,” McCarthy said, saying the girls talked about what those in the military had sacrificed and how their service touched everyone in America.
She said they also learned a lot, from finding a grave from the Spanish American War to meeting recent and older veterans.
“They were amazed to see women’s names,” McCarthy said.
This year they again came out in force. About 75 Girl Scouts gathered at 6 p.m., May 26, at St. Mary’s. They recited the pledge of allegiance and the Girl Scout promise. They listened to a prayer calling for the health and safety of those serving, the health and well-being of current veterans and “for the souls departed to rest in peace.”
And they shared a moment of silence before they fanned out across the cemetery lawn as the sun set to search for graves marking a military member.
“I was thinking about how dedicated they were because they helped us with our freedom,” said 8-year-old Gillie, McCarthy’s daughter.
Sheri Cowles, a scout leader and mother, said the girls were methodical about placing the flags. Once they found a military grave, they would recite the name on it, say a prayer and thank the person.
“No one told them they had to do this,” Cowles said. “They just took it upon themselves to show their respect and to say thanks to each and every veteran. I was very, very moved by this.”
And so was George Mann, commander of the East Syracuse American Legion Post.
“I thought it was really beautiful,” said Mann. “Not only did they help us out, but they were learning about why the veterans had given their lives.”
Mann, who served first in the U.S. Air Force and later in the U.S. Army Reserves, was the one McCarthy had talked to last year about helping out.
“It was a patriotic feeling watching the youth of today learning about the veterans,” he said.
At the end of the event, the Girl Scouts had placed 2,000 flags.
Gillie said she wondered why Americans have huge celebrations to honor military veterans only on Memorial Day. “They should be celebrated every day,” she said.
She and the Girl Scouts from the East Syracuse area may actually be doing that.
They have adopted a platoon out of Fort Drum, N.Y., and will be sending them Girl Scout cookies and cards.
McCarthy said the girls finished some of the cards a week ago and read from one: “I want to thank you for fighting for us. It was very nice of you.”