More than 100 Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and their families placed flags in front of more than 6,000 graves of fallen veterans Saturday at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.
The event, conducted biannually on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, has been conducted by Boy Scout Troop 287 for “many years” and has grown from just a few Scouts from the troop to a joint effort between multiple troops and volunteers, said Chuck Lauer, Troop 287 committee chairman.
“It started as a Scout-oriented service project, coming out here and laying out flags at the headstones when the cemetery first opened,” Lauer said. “Unfortunately, the cemetery has gotten a lot bigger over the years, but the community has really stepped up — now it’s more than just a single Scout troop that comes out here.
“We’ve got Cub Scout troops from all over the area out here, young kids with their parents. We’ve got Boy Scouts here with their moms and dads, and it really is a way of bringing to heart what veterans have provided to us over the years,” Lauer said.
When the Scouts come out for the first time to place the flags, they usually come with the thought of it just being another service project, he said.
“But when they get out here and see the magnitude of what they’re doing, and the respect with which other people are placing the flags ... It really becomes something more for them, really hits them in the heart,” Lauer said. “A lot of the kids have relatives or friends of the family buried out here that we didn’t know about. A lot of time, the kids didn’t even know about it until their parents tell them while they’re here, so they take this very seriously.”
After placing the flags, the troops gathered by the cemetery’s main flag for a flag retirement ceremony to properly dispose of approximately 50 U.S. flags, Texas flags and military branch flags that had become unserviceable.
Mike Overholser, Troop 287 scoutmaster, said the retirement site was originally the Eagle project for one of the troop’s Scouts. The site has a burn pit with a drainage system in it and is available to any organization needing to properly retire a flag as long as they coordinate with the cemetery.
“Since we’re a military town, a lot of our Scouts are sons of military members, so they know what the cemetery is all about,” Overholser said. “I think it’s a big honor for them to come out here and do this and show people how to properly retire a flag.”