Flags for Memorial Day Scouts mark veteran graves


News staff writer

May 24, 2006

Eleven-year-old John Parker takes pride in putting an American flag next to the grave of his grandfather in Idlewild Cemetery each May.

Although the World War II veteran did not die in combat, Parker feels a great deal of respect for his service to country.

“He was a good guy and a Christian. I think that maybe all of his prayers saved him,” said Parker, a member of Boy Scout Troop 378.

He and fellow scouts made two discoveries while setting up Memorial Day flags in the Hood River cemetery. They found the final resting place of Private James Hankin, a Confederate soldier and prisoner in the Civil War who died in 1893. They also came across the grave of Union Corporal Charles Finn, who died in 1984.

“Putting flags on these old graves and then the newer ones really showed us the reality of war,” said Kaleb Apland, 16.

The local troop will spend two to four hours on Thursday placing patriotic markers on all military graves at the Hood River burial ground. When the annual Memorial Day ceremony begins at 9:45 a.m. Monday, the scouts will have dotted the landscape with the colors of red, white and blue.

Their task used to be much harder since there was no way to distinguish which graves belonged to veterans. But Dennis Leonard, commander of American Legion Post 22, solved that problem by enlisting the help of FFA club members at Hood River Valley High School. These students blocked out sections of the cemetery and then walked that grid to mark all of the military graves on a special map.

Scout Master Nick Kirby believes the special duty during the past four years has taught his troop many lessons on community service and patriotism.

“I think they have a better idea about the sacrifices many individuals have made to give them the freedoms they enjoy,” he said.

Kristoff Decker, 15, agrees with that analysis.

“So many kids now don’t even think about what Memorial Day is all about. To them it’s just a day to stay home and play video games and eat popcorn,” he said.

Kevin Warner, 17, said the reality of war is brought home to him each time he sees the many flags spread out across the grounds.

“It’s just very sobering and also very inspiring to see so many flags waving in one cemetery,” he said.

Sam Kirby, 13, said that lesson was reinforced even more vividly when he visited Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., last year.

He said it was almost overwhelming to see the thousands of white headstones that were well-guarded by men and women who willingly braved the rain and heat. He hopes that Hood River residents will get a similar experience by viewing the handiwork of Troop 378.

“I think taking one day out of year and one hour of that day to honor the men and women who sacrificed lives for them is not too much for anyone to do,” said Decker.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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