Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Jewish Light

Every Memorial Day weekend the Greater St Louis Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America honors our Jewish veterans by planting flags at over 6,500 grave sites in seven St Louis Community Jewish cemeteries.  This program has been in place for many years, with my family participating over the last five years.

The recent cemetery vandalism at Chased Shel Emeth has suddenly thrust this annual family tradition into my current stream of consciousness.  To be specific, I remember walking the grounds of Chased Shel Emeth, thanking fallen veterans for their service at their resting places, and replacing the old, tattered flags.

First, it is important for everyone to know that this activity is a community-wide service project.  In partnership with the Jewish War Veterans organization, the Boy Scouts’ Jewish Relations Committee established a program to recognize Jewish veterans.  Hundreds of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and their families meet at the Jewish Federation for an early morning breakfast, served by Jewish War veteran volunteers.  The organizers diligently count out the flags that are needed, the cemeteries are assigned and the Scouts exit the Jewish Federation Building to share rides to their respective solemn assignments.  Once assembled at the cemeteries, the scouts raise the U.S. flag, the pledge of allegiance is recited, and flag placement directions are given.       

Scouts slowly and reverently make their way across the sacred ground, ensuring that all veteran resting spots receive a new flag.  Of particular meaning to me, each Scout is given a meaningful script to read out loud, effectively making the flag planting a “mini service”.  The scouts are asked to salute the grave site, call out the veteran by name, thank him or her for their service to our country and then replace the flag.  

The scouts are children of all faiths, cultures, colors, nationality and ethnic diversity. There is no hate, only respect.  It’s a very moving experience to glance across the grounds and only see young people expressing gratitude and patriotism.  It’s a feeling of love and hope.  

This is my memory of visiting Chased Shel Emeth Cemetery.  Like the rest of our entire community, I am saddened by the recent acts of evil, but I take pride in knowing that this service project has helped teach love and respect to our children.  I can only hope that by continuing to support this program, and others like it, we can all continue to break down barriers.   

Jen Schmitz, WHP Member (St. Louis 15) is a Finance Leader at MasterCard Worldwide, providing project management leadership in the global supply chain group.  She grew up in the Chicago area, studied accounting at Emory University, earned her CPA and received her graduate degree in Information Technology from DePaul University.  She is a member of Congregation B’nai Amoona. Jen and her husband Jeff are the parents of two Boy Scouts, one of whom is commissioning as an officer in the US Army when he graduates from Norwich University in 2019.  She can be reached at