Royal Oak— The first year Carol Hennessey and the Royal Oak Memorial Society went to place American flags on veterans’ graves in Oakview Cemetery, they could only find 250.
“We couldn’t find them because the grass had grown over the gravestones,” she said. “Nobody was there to clear them off.”
Every year since then, Hennessey has organized an annual cleanup and flag placing ahead of Memorial Day, and she’s made sure a new generation of people will be taking on the job when she can no longer do it.
“Our commitee has tried to get the youth involved,” said Hennessey. “If they don’t know about this we won’t have anyone to carry it on.”
More than 100 children from various boy scouts, cub scouts, girl scouts and brownies troops around Royal Oak and Troy came to the cemetery Saturday to place the 2,500 flags for the veterans buried in the expansive grounds.
It was almost like a scavenger hunt, as the children, their troop leaders and parents combed the cemetery for gravestones indicating servicemen and women.
On Monday, the troops will participate in the Memorial Day parade through downtown Royal Oak.
“To me this is the most meaningful parade out of all the parades,” said Lydia Rochon, leader of the Northwood Elementary School Brownies. “We’re honoring people like my father (a Vietnam veteran) who served.”
Karen Maiuri, a Royal Oak resident whose daughter Mackenzie was among those placing flags, said the girls understand the importance of the event.
“She knows that is who they are, that they died for our freedom,” she said. “It’s part of our family’s Memorial Day tradition.”
Mackenzie, 9, was following her friends, who were waving flags like they were directing a jumbo jet into an airport gate and singing patriotic songs. But when it came to the responsibility of placing the flags, she got serious.
“It’s pretty cool because you’re honoring people,” she said, “because they served for us, for our freedom.”