BREWER, Maine — The aging group of local military veterans who for decades put flags on the graves of their fallen brothers-in-arms in Brewer for Memorial Day has all but disappeared and this year local Scouts have stepped forward to do the job.
“We’re looking at a new generation to take this job and go with it,” Ken Hanscom, Brewer’s parks and recreation director, said Monday. “They’re going to be helping us put out flags at Woodlawn and Oak Hill [cemeteries]. This might be a chance for these young people to get an appreciation for the veterans and what they did for this country.”
Hanscom had nearly 600 small American flags with him on Monday afternoon when he met with Brewer’s Brownie Troop 911 and two city Boy Scouts clubs, Troop 1 and Troop 15, as well as a handful of other local Scouts at Woodlawn Cemetery.
Traditionally, members of Brewer’s Isaac E. Clewley Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4917 put out the flags. However, when the club had money problems in 2009 and joined Bangor’s Norman N. Dow Post 1761, creating the Norman N. Dow-Isaac E. Clewley Post 1761, the job fell back onto the shoulders of the city.
“They did such a fantastic job,” Hanscom said of the members of the former VFW post in Brewer. “They have been so good to us.”
Orrington resident Don Mattson, former longtime commander of Post 4917 who spent many years putting out flags for Memorial Day, said local Scouts assisted with the effort in the past.
“It was a good set-up,” he said, adding that health problems prevented him from helping this year. “I feel it’s one way of thanking all the combat veterans and it means a lot to me.
“I always used to wonder what it was all about as a little kid,” Mattson said of Memorial Day. “After my time in, I know. There was a lot of people who did not come back. I consider myself pretty lucky. I spent a year in Vietnam and that was not nice.”
Members of the combined local VFW placed more than 1,400 flags at cemeteries in Bangor on Monday morning with the assistance of U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, state Rep. Douglas Damon, R-Bangor, and other dignitaries, said Ron Smith, quartermaster for Post 1761.
“That’s a lot of flags,” he said.
“Memorial Day started out as Decoration Day way back in 1868, and it was to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War,” Smith noted. “Now we honor all veterans who gave their lives in service to the country.”
When Brewer resident Nicole Hanson, mother of both a Brownie and a Scout, heard that city employees put out the flags last Memorial Day, she approached the local Scout troops, who stepped forward to volunteer.
Hanson’s grandfather Lloyd Mann, a World War II veteran, is buried at Woodlawn and his grave will be one of those displaying a flag.
“This is a good way for them to honor the vets,” Hanson said. “These are their relatives and these are people who fought for our country. It’s a sign of respect, and that this is something both Scout organizations strive for.”