By Dorothy Copus Brush
Cemeteries are given special attention this week in preparation for Memorial Day next Monday. During the Civil War gracious ladies of the south laid flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers from both sides. The custom spread across the country and was called Decoration Day until the early 20th century.
As many other wars followed the official name was changed to Memorial Day. This week in cemeteries across the country, small American flags are being placed on the graves of veterans from all wars. It is also the time many families place flowers at the graves of their loved ones who have passed on.
Now in 2012 we are again engaged in several wars and many Americans fail to show the returning veterans of those wars the appreciation they deserve. Recently I learned of one organization, The Student Conservation Association, who enlarged their program to include employing returning veterans to fight forest fires.
The SCA was created from a proposal suggested in college senior Elizabeth Titus Cushman’s 1955 thesis. By 1957 a group working with the National Park Service used those ideas and placed volunteer young students in sections of national parks that needed tender loving care. That partnership proved successful and by 1964 the SCA had grown so large it became a separate non-profit organization.
Today over 4,000 young volunteers serve annually in public lands and urban green spaces. They work 8 hours a day, 6 days a week at their mission to build the next generation of conservation leaders, inspired to become lifelong stewards of our environment through service to the land.
SCA has added the paid Veterans Fire Corps to assist young vets from various branches of the armed services in the transition back to civilian life. Working with the US Forest Service up to 60 of these vets are serving in National Forests. New ways to support veterans is being explored by these two groups.
After its first year vets in the program had good words about continuing service to their country. They enjoy working with vets who share similar experiences. They said it related to their military history and made them feel comfortable. One said, “The enemy now is fire.”
Even though Mother’s Day is past I have a personal story that after 30 years still seems hard to believe. In 1982 son number 3 began work with a small concrete construction company fairly new to the business. On the Friday before Mother’s Day that year I received a package. Inside I found a small gift and a Mother’s Day card from the owner of that company. Nothing approaching that had ever happened before. I sent a letter of thanks immediately and forgot it.
The following year on the Friday before Mother’s Day the same thing happened again. 2012 marked the 30th year the package of appreciation to the mother of an employee arrived. I have no idea how many mothers receive gifts. If it were still a small business the gesture would be important but this is now one of the nation's largest specialty contractors operating throughout North America and the Caribbean which makes it even more amazing.
After about the fifth year the package always held a prized Longaberger basket. Some years the owner added a hand written note on the Mother’s Day card mentioning the fine job son was doing.
In March the company gave the Salvation Army $5,000 to help needy families in the 14 separate communities where the company has a local office or project site. But they have other projects which few know about, such as Mother’s Day, to show their respect for their workers. The founder of Baker Concrete Construction has never forgotten his humble beginnings and shows his appreciation by sharing with others. Thank you, Dan!