COEUR d'ALENE — Benjamin Givens has answered the call to develop a more accurate account of the fallen veterans to recognize on Memorial Day.
The Lakeland High senior and member of Boy Scout Troop 911 in Coeur d'Alene has created an updated database of veterans laid to rest in the Forest and Riverview cemeteries in Coeur d'Alene so that more veterans can be honored with flags this weekend.
The activity was Givens' community service project requirement to become an Eagle Scout. He did it in collaboration with Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 889.
"I wanted to choose a project that meant a lot to me," said Givens, whose great-grandfather fought during World War I. "Our troop was approached by the VFW about the need for it. When I heard about it, I felt very passionate about it. Honoring veterans is one of the best causes I can think of."
Givens and his fellow scouts walked through both cemeteries, grave by grave, to see which ones hadn't been entered into the city's database and if any in that database had misspelled names. Most veterans' headstones have markers that are available from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
When the tally was complete, the names of 513 veterans were added to the list at Forest Cemetery, bringing the total to 1,586. At Riverview, the list grew by 90 to 618.
The scouts put the more-accurate accounts into action on Saturday when they distributed flags to the cemeteries with the VFW.
"The goal was to develop an updated database mapping system on where the veterans are located and to see if there were any spelling mistakes in the database," Givens said. "The city had a database, but it was very outdated. We've created a binder and mapping system that has all the veterans marked. It will be utilized mostly on Memorial Day, but it's also a way for the city to know where they are."
Since Givens' count had more veterans than the VFW had flags for, Lowe's stepped up to donate nearly 600 flags and the store's volunteers also showed up on Saturday to help the Boy Scouts and VFW distribute the flags.
Bill Greenwood, Coeur d'Alene's parks director, applauded the service.
"We appreciate the help (from the Boy Scouts and VFW) to recognize and honor those who have served," Greenwood said. "This is a wonderful gesture for our community."
Ken Anderson, the VFW Post commander, said the nonprofit has been responsible for placing flags on veterans' graves in the cemeteries on Memorial Day for years with support from the Boy Scouts of America.
"Every year we receive complaints from families stating that their relative was not marked with a flag," said Anderson.
He said most of the time, overlooked graves have no veteran marker or the marker is on the other side of the headstone, making it easy to miss.
Anderson said the VFW is proud of Givens and his fellow scouts for their efforts to ensure more fallen vets are remembered on Memorial Day. He said a bucket of flags will be left at each cemetery for the graves of veterans that still may have been missed.
"This was a tremendous task for a young man still in high school," Anderson said. "This kid has really got it on the ball and truly cares for his community. His assistance will help the VFW better accomplish its mission each Memorial Day."