UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. — After sliding a new American flag into a circular marker at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Jayden Campbell stands up straight, holding his small hand to his head.
"Morris Reznick, for your service in the armed services of the United States, we salute you," he said, saluting the gravesite.
The 11-year-old Florissant resident is one of the estimated 5,000 Scouts fanning across St. Louis area cemeteries Sunday to decorate the graves of former American military members ahead of Memorial Day remembrances.
It’s what the Scouts call their Memorial Day Good Turn.
"It gives them a little bit of a connection to the individual and to personalize this service and personalize what they're doing," organizer Steve Sobleman said.
Scouts started by visiting eight Jewish cemeteries Sunday. They placed about 16,000 flags at Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery alone.
Another 267,000 flags were scheduled for distribution at Jefferson Barracks Sunday afternoon.
Scouts officials say about 4,000 boys and girls turned out to make that happen. If you do the math, that means each Scout had to place flags on about 64 graves.
Organizers say the event began 74 years ago with one Eagle Scout.
“This is one of their most important events of the year," said Ollie Tilghman with the Greater St. Louis Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. "We started the program. Other cemeteries are now putting on the same program, but it originated here with one Eagle Scout and now it has grown to over 4,000 or 5,000 Scouts.”
"It means a lot to me," said Eagle Scout Andrew Schraut, who participated in Sunday's 'Good Turn.' "Both of my grandparents served in the military and they both passed away in recent years, so it means a lot to me to come out here and do this for them and everyone else here. I have a huge respect for all the branches of the military.”
The flags will remain in place until February.
In the Metro East Saturday, 75 volunteers from Scout troops, the Collinsville VFW and others from the Metro East gathered together to place about 6,700 flags on the graves of veterans at the Lake View Memorial Gardens in Fairview Heights.
Ryan Zinke, the general manager for Lake View Memorial Gardens, said he was only anticipating 50 volunteers for this year's flag placing. He got a pleasant surprise when 75 people came to participate.
Zinke said since COVID-19, this is the best turnout they had seen for the Memorial Day weekend flag placings.
"Now we get a chance to give back and honor the true heroes of our country," he said.