Scouts honor veterans ahead of Memorial Day at Dayton National Cemetery

Hundreds of kids of all ages, clad in their Scout uniforms, gathered at the Dayton National Cemetery on the Dayton VA Medical Center campus on Saturday to pay tribute to the veterans laid to rest there.

In a decades-long tradition, Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts aged 5 to 18 from troops across the state flock to the cemetery each year to place an American flag in front of each gravestone.

“It’s an impressive sight to see, as the kids begin spreading out across the cemetery grounds with a sea of flags,” said Charlotte Wuebker, one of the Scout troop leaders who participated Saturday. “Part of the oath we take each time we meet is to do our best to do our duty to God and our country, so this is one of the ways we fulfill that oath.”

During a ceremony ahead of Saturday’s flag-laying, President of the American Legion Auxiliary of Ohio Jane Ridenour spoke briefly, reciting a speech written by Bowling Green High School student and Voice of Democracy participant Evvie Van Vorhis.

In it, Van Vorhis examines the sacrifices made by veterans and the meaning behind the Memorial Day holiday.

“People just like you and me, willing to lay down their life, their everything, just for us to have a shot at tomorrow. Every day, they wake up with a patriotic sense of life, knowing that if something happens, they may not come home at the end of the day; may not see their family again,” the speech reads. “... ‘Thank you for your service’ will never be enough to praise them.”

Aurora Werschler, a 14-year-old who’s part of a Boy Scout troop in Huber Heights, reflected on her scouting career as she placed flags.

Werschler began in the Girl Scout program, where she served until she was a Girl Scout Junior, or upper-elementary age. She said her switch to the Boy Scouts took place as the pressure of operating a cookie booth got the best of her.

“It got too chaotic for me,” she said of her time selling the popular treats.

Serving as a Boy Scout has been great, she said, highlighting the friendships she’s made so far.

“We’re a tight knit group,” she said.

Werschler has participated in the annual Memorial Day flag-laying event for the past six years.

“(This is a day) to remember those who sacrificed their lives during all of the different wars and times we’ve needed to protect our country,” she said. “These are people who have risked everything, so it’s important to show appreciation.”

Following the ceremony and flag-laying, Ridenour reflected on a scene she observed: one Boy Scout who while making his way through the cemetery would pause and salute each gravestone after placing a flag in front of it.

“To show that respect he had; I mean, you try to instill that in kids but he has got it down better than most already,” she said.

Ridenour attended Saturday’s event with her husband, David, who served in the Vietnam War. He shared his wife’s sentiment.

“You read so much in the news about how bad the youth are today, and needing discipline within schools, and that is a problem, but we see the brightest and the best in scouting,” he said.

According to scout leader Wuebker, that’s exactly what the Boy and Girl Scouts of America aims for.

“Some surveys have found that a lot of Americans are unaware of what the scout programs are for, so one of our focuses is to get information out to the public about this,” she said. “Scout programs are really about making good citizens out of our youth, and that’s something we need in our country right now.”

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