Josh and Matthew Agron of Eagle River had a pretty good idea where their grandfather’s grave is located at the Fort Richardson National Cemetery as they walked the hallowed grounds that is the final resting place for thousands of Alaskan military members.
The Agron brothers were at the cemetery on Sun., May 28, with fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 230 of Eagle River to place small American flags in front of each grave marker in preparation for the Monday, May 29, Memorial Day ceremonies held there.
“It is over this way,” Josh Agron told the ECHO News as he led this writer to the chalk white marker standing in identical fashion among so many others but individually identified as representing the life of his grandfather, Alfredo Agron, solely because of the stark black lettering on the front face.
The two brothers remembered that Grandpa always wore his baseball hat tipped just a bit to the side of his face.
They wanted to show respect for their grandfather’s career choice to be a lifetime military member. They wanted to show respect for the more than 5,000 internments at the Fort Richardson National Cemetery – each burial site with its own personal connection to the U.S. military whether it be someone that died while serving on active duty, or someone that died after his or her service or a family member of a service member.
“It is good to honor them,” Matthew Agron said.
Honor and respect were the code words of the day Sunday afternoon as approximately 50 Scouts from Boy and Girl Scout troops carried bundles of American flags in their arms and walked along the hundreds of rows of graves “planting” the wooden sticks upon which smaller versions of “Old Glory” were attached to blow in the cold breeze that swept through the cemetery.
Several of the Scouts verbalized the ideal of reverence that is engrained in the 12 points of the Scout Law.
There was also the reality that the cemetery – even in its natural beauty – still represents a place where death lingers.
Sora Hannah and Coral Mercer – both Cadet Girl Scouts with Troop 690 and both age 12 – expressed sadness and surprise at the number of graves at the Fort Richardson National Cemetery.
“It is pretty crazy how many that died,” Hannah said.
Her thoughts were mirrored by her male counterparts.
“It felt sad,” Shane Zoleske, a Scout with BSA Troop 219 of Eagle River, said regarding the realization that each grave marker represented a person that once was alive, but was now dead.
“I felt like we did a good deed putting the flags up. So many of them died in war just for us. It feels like we just repaid them.”
Zoleske’s father, Brian Zoleske – an U.S. Army retiree – was Shane’s ride to the event. His son said that he learned from watching his father that military members word hard and do good deeds for others.
The sheer numbers of service member buried at Fort Richardson National Cemetery left Shane’s fellow Scout, Ben Jensen, searching for the right words to quantify what his first experience placing flags at military graves meant to him.
“There were a lot of them there,” Jensen said as he pondered the question regarding why participating in Sunday afternoon’s flag placing was worthwhile to him. “I think it is important because you are saying ‘thank-you’ so so so so much for serving and dying for our country.”