Volunteers place flags at graves in Florence National Cemetery
FLORENCE, S.C. — A group of volunteers on Saturday morning prepared Florence National Cemetery for Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony, heard a presentation on Eagle Scouts who went on to be awarded the Medal of Honor and were treated to hot dogs and hamburgers at the end of the effort.
The volunteers, many from a myriad of Boy and Girl Scout groups, the Veterans Honor Guard, and Woodmen of the World, sweated in 90-plus-degree heat to make sure that the front of every marker at the cemetery — about 14,000 in all — had an American flag placed about 12 inches in front of it.
In the sun-baked soil of the cemetery that was not always an easy task.
Michael Hesbach, Scout executive of the Pee Dee Area Council, spoke to those gathered about Medal of Honor winners, of which there are 3,468. Out of those, 43 percent were awarded for actions taken during the Civil War. Ten men who attained Eagle Scout went on to receive the Medal of Honor.
Four Eagle Scouts who won the Medal of Honor died doing so — all during WWII.
“As you place your flags, I encourage you to look at the stones to see where the decedent served and honors presented,” Hesbach said. “One such grave is of Chief Boatswain’s Mate James Elliott Williams, a South Carolina native and Medal of Honor recipient who is buried in this cemetery. His tombstone has gold printing with the medal engraved.”
Two consistent themes exist in virtually all Medal of Honor acceptance speeches, he said. “First the recipient notes they are simply a caretaker for the medal, that they did not seek out to act bravely, they were just doing their duty. The second was to accept the medal on behalf of the true recipients, who are those that did not make it home alive.”
“That is why we have Memorial Day to honor those that did not come home because they died in service to our country. They could be like the four Eagle Scouts who received the Medal of Honor who died while doing the act they were recognized for, or they could be like my friend, an Eagle Scout from my troop who died in combat Oct. 14, 2006, Capt. Shane Adcock.”
“They died because they lived the Scout Oath: On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country. To obey the Scout Law. To help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight,” Hesbach said at the conclusion of his presentation.
Monday’s event will feature Brig. Gen. Stephen B. Owens, a Clemson ROTC graduate, Class of 1985, who has served and commanded various engineer units including the 122nd Engineer Battalion of the South Carolina Army National Guard when it earned a Valorous Unit Award while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
The event will start at 10 a.m. in the new section of the cemetery. Parking will be at the neighboring Pee Dee Center.