Recognizing Fallen Soldiers Has Long
Tradition in Gravois Trail District
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – For more than five decades, nearly 4,000 scouts have
gathered at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, located along the banks of
the Mississippi River, over Memorial Day weekend to place an American flag at
the grave of every deceased soldier within the cemetery’s fences. The tradition,
now entering its 64th year in the Gravois Trail District, is one of
the longest running Memorial Day events within the Boy Scouts of America today.
The 2013 edition is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 26.
first Memorial Day Good Turn in the Greater St. Louis Area Council (GSLAC) took
place in 1950 and was completed by scouts in what was then called the Grant
District, but today is referred to as the Gravois Trail District. Since the
mid-1990’s, the event has grown to include all units within GSLAC and the
manpower is certainly needed. Every year on the last Sunday of May, area scouts
take roughly two hours to cover the 330 acres in Jefferson Barracks and place
flags on nearly 190,000 graves.
honor the Barracks’ fallen soldiers each year, a procession of Boy Scouts march
from the National Guard base into Jefferson Barracks Cemetery where a ceremony
then takes place at the main flag pole on the grounds. Scouts who earned Eagle
Scout during the past year serve as color guard and scout buglers play “Taps.”
From there a guest speaker addresses the crowd before Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts,
Venture Scouts and Girl Scouts disperse to put out flags, all of which are
furnished by Jefferson Barracks. This year’s keynote speaker will be Lieutenant
Brian T. Leicht of the U.S. Marine Corps. Leicht, a graduate of Oakville Senior
High School, earned his Eagle Scout rank in 2007.
a large scale event wouldn’t be possible without a plan in place. St. Louis
native Bill Frein is the man behind the preparations and will enter his 13th
year running the good turn in 2013. Although he took over the reins in 2000,
Frein has been involved with Memorial Day Good Turn since the 1970’s during his
time as a Scoutmaster. The Eagle Scout and Silver Beaver Award recipient relies
on a committee of 18 people to help carry out the day’s tasks and ensure the
event runs smoothly.
just feel that it’s a way that I can help recognize those who have given time
to our country to serve in the armed forces and the military, and I am a
veteran myself,” said Frein, who was drafted into the army from 1956-58.
Opened in 1826 as the
first permanent U.S. Army base west of the Mississippi River, Jefferson
Barracks was at one time the largest military base in the U.S. Its military
operations stopped in 1946. In 1866, JB was established as a national cemetery and
today it is one of 131 national cemeteries under the Department of Veterans
Affairs. It is also one of the oldest interment sites within the VA’s system
and has buried veterans from every U.S. war, including the American Revolution.
Once known as Decoration
Day, Memorial Day was established after the Civil War to honor the Confederate
and Union soldiers who died. Today, the event commemorates all of those who
have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It wasn’t until 1967
that a Federal law declared Memorial Day as the official name.