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This afternoon at exactly 3 p.m., a small group of Scouts from Troop 466 (where I have been as Asst. Scoutmaster for 20 years) gathered in the parking lot of Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church in Silicon Valley — joining Scouts around the nation — to hold a short ceremony. Troop 466 is actually quite large — 90 boys and, now, 10 girls in a sister troop — but at the local Council’s request, we kept it to a small group, masked and keeping the proper social distancing.
We began by taking turns memorializing veterans in our own lives. Needless to say, the parents mostly spoke. I mentioned that my family tree is filled with warriors, from the French and Indian War through almost every conflict in American history up to and including Afghanistan. I dedicated the day to my great-uncle John Collins, who died in the trenches in WWI.
We then held a brief flag ceremony. The troop has an elaborate historic US flag ceremony involving a half-dozen flags from throughout our history. But they are stored in the gym and church has been shut down and locked up now for more than two months. Instead, searching for a solution, I decided to bring my father’s funeral flag.
Ricky, one of the Eagles I mentored and senior patrol leader, ran the event — as he always does — superbly (that’s him standing in the center). He was in especially fine form because this was his last event as a Boy Scout before he heads off to college. He ordered the group to attention and called forward the two-man color guard. Yash, another of my Eagles (and about 6’3″) carried the triangle of the big flag under his arm. Standing in front of the group, the two Scouts began to unfold the flag.
As they did, I told the assembled Scouts and parents that it was my father’s — Major Ralph Malone’s — memorial flag. That it had not been unfurled since his funeral in 1988 — that he had served 32 missions as a bombardier on a B-17 in WWII and occasionally under fire in Eastern Europe as an intelligence agent for the USAF during the Cold War … and that as a Life Scout, Sea Scout, and former Asst. Scoutmaster, he’d be proud to be honored today with them.
Ricky then called for a minute of silence and we closed out with a beautiful rendition of “Taps” by our young bugler. Moments after he finished, another bugler, somewhere on a nearby street had apparently heard us and offered up his rendition.
Just 15 minutes and it was over. We carefully refolded the flag, adjusted our masks, and headed home to our respective lockdowns.Published in