Pictured Above: Southold Boy Scouts John & Dylan Schwarting search for soldiers’ graves in Southold’s Old Burying Ground.

For the past 25 years, scouts throughout Suffolk County have honored soldiers at Calverton National Ceremony each year on the Saturday before Memorial Day by placing flags on each and every grave.

But this year, despite pleas from Suffolk County to allow this longstanding tradition to continue, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs did not agree to allow this tradition to go forward, even though the county had prepared a detailed safety plan to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

“If we can reopen our beaches and have thousands of people coming to our beaches this weekend, how is it that we can’t have our Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, on thousands of acres, be able to place American flags to honor veterans buried there,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone at his May 22 media briefing.

But this didn’t deter the county, and local scouting groups, from finding another way to honor those who died for the United States.

At more than a dozen local cemeteries throughout the county, scouts spent Saturday morning, May 23, combing through the tombstones looking to find those of service members, and honor them.

They were armed with thousands of small American flags, gathered in just a few days through a community flag drive led by the county.

We caught up with Boy Scout Troop 6 of Southold, who were placing flags Saturday morning at Southold’s Old Burying Ground at the First Presbyterian Church.

Pictured Above (from top left): Tristan Davis, Grant Bossen, Brady Woods, Dereck, Grant & Kai Bossen, Tyler Penny and Brendan Boyle.

On Sunday, after the scouts were finished, Mr. Bellone gathered the remaining flags and drove them out to Calverton.

While scouting groups were not allowed to place flags on the graves at Calverton this weekend, individuals were.

“So many people were out there, family members, to place flags,” said Mr. Bellone. “I saw whole sections where flags had been placed. Clearly we were not the only ones.”

Mr. Bellone said he was proud of residents who had found a way to honor those buried at Calverton, even without the help of the VA.

“It’s a privilege to serve in this county,” he said.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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