“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.” ― George S. Patton Jr.
If there is any town in Texas that celebrates the dead: it's San Antonio. No, I'm not referring to the tradition of Dia de los muertos. Rather, the insistence that all Remember the Alamo. Although more Texians were actually killed at the battle of Goliad it is the sacrifice of the 187-257 Texians at San Antonio that we are beckoned to recollect. Where can the graves be visited? Well... you can't. Only one of the soldiers at the Alamo, Gregorio Esparza, was the only Alamo defender to receive a proper burial. All of the rest were tossed into a huge pyre where flames consumed their bodies. The ashes were dumped into the San Antonio River. It wasn't until shortly after the battle of San Jacinto, that the returning soldier who would be elected the first mayor of San Antonio, Juan Seguin, collected the remaining bones and uncovered the names of the fallen.
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Now as San Antonio is an old town, it should come as no surprise that there are many cemeteries around the town. As San Antonio is also a military town, it should come as no surprise that there are many military cemeteries in the town as well. One such cemetery, that causes a controversy almost every year, is the Confederate Cemetery.
San Antonio Confederate Cemetery
There are more than 950 burials in this cemetery, however only 215 were Texans that died during the Civil War. The remaining 735 were Confederate Veterans who were either Texan or migrated here after the war.
Right next to the Confederate Cemetery (which a lot of the people of San Antonio don't seem to remember) is City Cemetery #3. This was the Cemetery that had been set aside for the burial of African-Americans. It is a burial place of those from wide ranging theaters of action: Buffalo Soldiers who served from the Plains of America to Medal recipients from the Philippine Insurrection and beyond. Also this Cemetery was the first integrated cemetery in San Antonio.
City Cemetery #3
So how does this get to the Webelos picture? Well I was a Webelos pack leader and it was Memorial Day in San Antonio many moons ago. My pack was honored to participate in the placing of flags on military graves at the San Antonio National Cemetery, the oldest National Cemetery in Texas. It's grounds contain more than four acres and hold more than 3,200 graves. Needless to say, it was a large task of which the Webelos would be only a facet of many who had emerged to honor those who had passed.
San Antonio National Cemetery
My pack arrived. It was about twelve boys in all. A number which included my son, Sam. Before we picked up the flags and the area that had been assigned to us I once again did the leader thing of expressing the importance of our duty. Of the sacrifice that the few had carried for the many. As they began to plant the flags, it appeared that my talk had merely been little more than words passing in air. No problem I thought, remembering that I too was once a kid. So what did I do? Well as I was with the scouts, I began to approach my son, but did it loud enough so the nearby Scouts could hear. Kneeling to match Sam's level, I asked, "Hey Sam, who are you remembering with this flag?" Sam looked at the marker, "Private Charlie Anderson." "So he was a private?" "Yeah," Sam excitedly replied. "When was Mr. Anderson born?" I asked. "1926," Sam, now a little slower replied. "And when did he die?" I questioned. "1943" came the unsure reply as Sam wasn't really sure where I was going with this. The pack, who by now was curious as to what was going on had formed a little circle. "That's right. 1943." I replied, "Hmmm now how old was he when he died?" Sam, and the collected scouts, began to press their eyes as their brains searched for answers. Some even began to press fingers against their thumbs to help their mental reckoning. Sam suddenly broke the silence. "Seventeen." he said, still unsure of the correctness of his answer. "That's right, he was Seventeen." Sam smiled at the fact that he had gotten the right answer but it remained in reserve. He was still trying to see where I was going with this questioning.
"Seventeen," I said, but now, besides just addressing my son I also looked at the pack, "though its still seems a long way off, one of these days you guys are going to be Seventeen, right?" The scouts nodded. "This guy gave his all so that others might enjoy their freedoms." The kids were a little more pensive. "Now guys," I said, "you guys are doing a fantastic job by honoring these guys!" I encouraged. "Just remember to look at he gravestones and find out a little about the guys you are honoring." The scouts went back to planting the markers. While most of them were still excitedly carrying out the job of honoring the fallen, every so often they would stop at a marker, pause and reflect.
I didn't want to get too heavy. I didn't want to get to political. My job wasn't to offer opinion or editorialize. It was merely to ask the scouts to pause and honor those who had fallen. And in the midst of the sea of graves... I hope I got through.
So dear reader, on this day don't get too heavy, or political, opinionated or editorialize. Though I cherish your right to do so, please... on this day, merely pause and honor.