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FLAGS OFFER LESSON FOR CUB SCOUTS.

Byline: Yvette Cabrera Daily News Staff Writer

Evelyn Dusty Morgan, U.S. Marines. Vincent Bolongna, U.S. Army. Robert Royce, U.S. Air Force. One by one, Skyler Badakhsh, 7, placed flags at the grave sites of these U.S. veterans and read off their names.

Where once Memorial Day may have been a lesson from Skyler's history books, on Saturday the sacrifices these veterans made became more sacred for the Cub Scout and his buddies in Cub Scout Pack 227 and Boy Scout Troop 127 from Agoura Hills.

Skyler and about 100 other Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and parents spent their Saturday morning placing American flags at the grave sites of hundreds of veterans at Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in preparation for Memorial Day.

``Do we know why we're doing this?'' one of the mothers asked the children as they poked their tiny flags into the earth.

``Because these people fought for us and died in the war,'' Skyler promptly answered as he placed a flag on a grave.

Skyler's mother, Kathryn Calcaterra, said the activity instills the true concept of Memorial Day in the children so that the holiday becomes more than just a day off from school.

``They learn to be American, they learn patriotism,'' said Calcaterra, a psychologist from Agoura Hills.

As her 4-year-old daughter, Valentina, thrust her flag into the ground, Calcaterra used the opportunity to teach her about her family's history.

``You're very lucky because your uncle and relatives came back from the war. Others didn't,'' said Calcaterra, whose brother and cousins served in Vietnam.

The Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts have helped the cemetery for several years as part of their pledge to serve their country and those who came before them, said JoAnn Mondrus, cubmaster for Pack 227.

``Every year when you drive by and see the flags waving it's because Cub Scout Pack 227 was there,'' Mondrus said. ``One of the primary things we teach them is to do your duty to God and country. Well, this is their contribution.''

The lesson was not lost on Mondrus' son Max, 9, who said it gave him a good feeling inside to contribute.

``It's for the people who fought for our country and did something good,'' said Max, a third-grade student. ``It's kind of sad, too, because people died. War is not good and shouldn't ever happen.''

For Ty Woods, family services director at Pierce Brothers, the volunteer work of the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts is a tremendous help. A few years ago, Woods and his daughter alone spent two days placing the flags on the grave sites.

``We were sunburned, had blisters, everything,'' recalled Woods, who said the flags are very significant for the families who visit on Monday - the cemetery's biggest visitation day of the year.

``When I'm inside my office on Monday and families come and say you missed my loved one's grave, crying - that's how important these flags are,'' Woods said. The flag-placing activity also helps demystify cemeteries, said den leader Kathy Patton, whose son Wes, 7, is a Cub Scout. The activity also helps the children respect those who have died, especially those who have served their country, she said.

``This is one of the coolest events because it's so meaningful,'' Patton said. ``Memorial Day is supposed to be for veterans, and this is when the kids really get a clue what it's all about.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

PHOTO Cub Scout Kyle Dugandzic, 7, totes American flags to be placed on veterans' graves.

Evan Yee/Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 30, 1999
Words:592
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