Since 1946, scouts have placed flags at the headstones of fallen soldiers at Marietta National Cemetery.
MARIETTA, Ga. -- The Memorial Day weekend starts in the same, moving way every year at the Marietta National Cemetery with hundreds of scouts placing flags at the headstones of fallen soldiers.
PHOTOS | Scouts Honor Fallen Soldiers with Flags
"The people who died here, we want to respect them," said John Bozeman, a boy scout from Cobb County. "You place the flag and salute and read the name in your head."
The tradition began in 1946. On Saturday morning, more than 1,500 scouts honored every one of the more than 17,000 fallen soldiers buried at the national cemetery.
"It's moving to watch these young people take that one moment to realize that our freedom is not free," said research historian Brad Quinlin. "They're giving just a little bit back."
Quinlin knows the stories behind thousands of headstones.
He points to the grave of Michael Barry Turner, a Marine from Decatur who enlisted at the age of 19. He was killed in the Tet Offensive.
"Othal, Michael's father, would come and spend Memorial Day, every Memorial Day for 17 years in front of his son's grave, placing a wreath in what everybody thought was the end of a row," Quinlin said.
Turns out, there was room for one more grave. Michael's father was a World War II vet who secretly made plans to be buried beside his son.
"A father who had spent so much time here in the National Cemetery prepared to spend eternity next to his son," Quinlin said. "Now they're together. You've got two military men who know what it's like to sacrifice for freedom."
That kind of sacrifice is what the scouts are learning about. They're part of a new generation giving their full attention.
"These men and women are not forgotten," Quinlin said.