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Students ‘Carry the Load’ for the Fallen

Thu, 05/23/2024 - 11:52

Whiskey Bravo youth group chapter places flags on soldiers’ graves

Kailey Eberhart, an East Hampton High School student, launched a chapter of the national youth group Whiskey Bravo here last year.
Joseph Pugh

The local chapter of Whiskey Bravo, a nationwide youth organization that raises awareness of the kinds of support needed by veterans and active military personnel, took on the somber task this year of placing flags at the gravesites of East Hampton soldiers who lost their lives at war or later died of injuries, both physical and mental, sustained during conflict.

On Sunday, East Hampton’s Whiskey Bravo chapter, which was founded by Kailey Eberhart, a freshman at the high school, last year as a community group rather than a school club, also took part in the nationwide Carry the Load campaign to share the stories of the fallen. Led by two Navy SEALs “who felt the true meaning of Memorial Day was getting lost,” Kailey said, participants carry not just the names of those who served, but also the American flag coast to coast across the country.

“For some people, Memorial Day is every day,” she said in her remarks on Sunday to the kids, teens, and adults who came to the American Legion in Amagansett to walk a symbolic lap around the field there.

The young East Hamptoners carried the names and stories of the late Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter of Sag Harbor, Cpl. Christopher Scherer of East Northport, and Cpl. Nicholas Xiarhos of Yarmouth, Mass., on pieces of paper pinned to their shirts.

“Walking around a field isn’t as dangerous as fighting in a war, but it felt nice to do something to say ‘thank you’ to them. We were carrying what they fought for,” said Peyton Castro, a cousin of Kailey’s and an East Hampton High School student who is active in Whiskey Bravo.

Another student taking part on Sunday was Rylie Field, who attends the East Hampton Middle School. “To me, putting up those flags meant giving the veterans a way to be remembered for what they did for us,” she wrote in a text message. “When you pass by a graveyard most people don’t stop, but when you see an American flag waving right next to it, it might just make you stop and try to appreciate these people more.”

Kailey took part the weekend before in the New York City leg of the Carry the Load campaign, which also honors first responders who have died in the line of duty.

“People were saying it was amazing to see teenagers understanding what this walk was about and truly taking it seriously,” she said.

The Whiskey Bravo members are planning to walk with American Legion members in Monday’s Memorial Day parade in East Hampton. Upcoming events also include participation in Jordan’s Run, a 5K in Sag Harbor each summer that honors Corporal Haerter, a Pierson High School graduate and Marine Corps officer who died in combat in Iraq in 2008. The kids are also planning more “pack-outs” for active duty military men and women who are stationed far from their homes, like the ones they did last winter. Pack-outs, in military terms, are donation drives that generate boxes of treats and supplies for those who are serving.

Kailey, who has had family members in the military, “has seen firsthand the sacrifices that families make — not just the sacrifices of the soldiers themselves,” her mother, Kristine Eberhart, said.

She encouraged kids of all ages to join Whiskey Bravo. “It bridges the gap between children and veterans and active military, because there is a disconnect there.” Kailey and her peers are “really trying to make it so that the people the kids are impacting are the people of East Hampton,” she said. “Let’s celebrate and honor them and thank them.”


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