PORT HUDSON — More than 30 scouting organizations joined together with hundreds of volunteers and veterans Saturday for a long-standing tradition at Port Hudson National Cemetery — that of honoring veterans who have died.
The annual event, held the Saturday before Memorial Day, invites Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Eagle Scouts to join with other patriotic groups in placing an American flag at the headstone of every veteran buried at the graveyard.
Maurice Roan, of the National Cemetery Administration and director of the Louisiana Complex, which oversees five national cemeteries — four in Louisiana and one in Mississippi — said Saturday’s Flags at Port Hudson event had volunteers placing flags at headstones of Civil War era soldiers.
After instructing the more than 300 volunteers on where to place the flags at the headstones, totes filled with hundreds of small American flag replicates were opened, and the many children and their parents, troop leaders, senior citizens, law enforcement officials and veterans themselves could be seen carrying arm loads of flags or staking holes in the ground.
For Vietnam War veteran Leroy Helire, of Baker, this was his second year participating in the flag ceremony.
“I was a grunt, a combat soldier in Vietnam, so it’s taken me a long time before I could do this, but I’m glad I came,” said Helire. “It’s nice to see so many people out here doing this. It means a lot.”
For many young scouts and their families, the Flags at Port Hudson event was a first, such as for the Jolissaints of Baton Rouge. Candace, Joe and sons Charlie and Alex attended with Charlie’s Cub Scout Pack 103.
“This is really amazing,” Candace said. “I didn’t know this existed, but we’re honored to be here and be a part of it.”
Organizations volunteering included a U.S. Coast Guard veterans group, the Baton Rouge chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, American Red Cross, Omega Psi Phi — Lambda Kappa Kappa, 3M Acres therapeutic horseriding group of Baker and Girl Scout Troop 10380 of Denham Springs, along with the numerous Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops from around the region.