Youth football league lays flags at graves of fallen soldiers

MORGANTOWN — On a frosty Sunday morning, Veterans Day, the players and cheerleaders of the Westover Rockets youth football league organization took a break from their sport that favors military imagery to focus on what war is really about.
They huddled up at Arnettsville Cemetery in outlying Monongalia County, where they placed American flags at the graves of the men and women who wore the uniform.
Travis Anderson, 10, a solidly built lineman for the Rockets, already knows about people who have answered the call.
His great-grandfathers fought in World War II. One of his grandfathers is a Vietnam vet.
A great-uncle was declared missing in action in Korea and never got to come home.
“Coach said it was important that we do this for our veterans,” Travis said.
Rocket coaches and parents did the huddling first. They came up with the idea.
“This is something that’ll stick with our kids, I think,” said Chuck Stevens, the team’s head coach.
“Brave people,” the coach said, “made real sacrifices for them.”
It wasn’t too hard to find the military markers at the cemetery.
There were whole rows, in fact. Whole families, even.
Austin Neely, who was a private first class in World War I rests next to another Neely: Robert, who was a World War II infantryman.
Robert Neely Jr., who served in the Marines in the Vietnam era, completes the familial cadre of unselfish service.
The young Rockets scouted out such markers, with their moms and dads and coaches helping them.
Flags were placed, and memories were, too.
No adult had to tell the youngsters in their game day jerseys and cheerleading outfits not run across the graves.
No adult had to hiss the command to be quiet.
The happy chatter commenced only after the walk to the car for transport to Sunday dinner or other outings.
As the young charges were discovering, those are the fundamental freedoms fought for by the veterans of Arnettsville Cemetery.
Other veterans, also — anywhere and everywhere.
“It’s about respect,” Westover Rocket Kaliel Lewis replied, when asked what this day, and this exercise, meant to him.
“That’s what it is,” the 10-year-old said. “It’s about respect. For them.”

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