Friday afternoon found Liam and I in the local cemetery with other Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, parents, and VFW members. From the back of his truck, a veteran handed us two bundles of flags to be placed to the left of the stone of any veteran's grave we found as we walked through the cemetery. They didn't give us any other direction. I had directions as a kid when I walked into a cemetery: no running and no walking on the graves. That last one threw me. I was immobilized from afar not knowing for sure where the graves were -- how long, how wide, how close they were to the stones.
Liam started skipping toward a group of white stones, and I pulled him back, explaining that he needed to show respect and walk along the graves. At which point, three scouts came running all-out toward us. I dished out one of my mainstream parenting lines, "Different people have different rules."
Many of the veterans graves were clumped together with simple white stones. Government supplied, perhaps. Etched in each stone was a cross, the soldier's name, rank, military branch, war or wars in which they served, followed by date of birth and death.
We came to the first one that had the Korean war listed, and I pointed it out to Liam. It led to a short history lesson. "Did the U.S. come to kill people in Korea?!" No. The North invaded and attacked the South. "South is where I was born, right?" Yes. Soldiers from the U.S. went to help protect the people in the South. "So, Harold saved my life?" Lump. Quite possibly.
We continued on with Liam favoring the veterans who had served in Korea. I tucked in behind planting flags on graves he skipped. I came to a soldier with three wars etched into his stone: WWII, Korea, Vietnam. I called Liam over. "Whoa, now he was a big warrior! I'll do his flag!"
Within in a half hour, we had put out 20 flags and were ready to do more, but they had all been handed-out from the back of the truck. "So we can go home now?" Yes. Liam walk-skipped-danced along to the car.
I watched his happy 8-year-old legs bounce along without a word... absolutely certain that Harold and the other warriors would be OK with the skipping and the dancing.
(I loved this Memorial Day story from writer Beth Ann: Freedom Rocks -- about a young painter in Iowa using his artistic talents to honor American Veterans.)