Volunteers salute Veterans Day with flags at cemetery

TV Hagenah

As the blustery wind blew Wednesday afternoon, a handful of men and women wandered through Memorial Park Cemetery reading each headstone. When they found anything on the incription of the headstones that said the individual lying there had been a member of the U.S. military while alive, they put a small 8 X !0 inch American flag in the ground next to the headstone and then took a moment to think about the indivual who lay there.

Soon, the cemetery looked like a garden of flags with the flag planters not just stepping between the headstones of the dead, but between the scores upon scores of flags which dotted the quiet landscape.

The placing of the American flags has promised to become an annual event, but it is not done by the city, the county, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars or any other oganized group.

Instead it is a group of people called informally together by Maria Thomas and Yvette Fasekes. Thomas said she started getting ahold of friends to place the small flags at the cemetery on Veterans’ Day just a few days ago when she first realized that there were none going to decorate the graves of those that served in the United States military.

“I was stunned,” said Thomas about the lack of flags. “Can you believe it? Nobody was doing anything about it. They told me that the VFW did Memorial Day but, well, they’ve gotten older and can’t do Veterans’ Day too.”

“Memorial Day is for everyone,” said Thomas. “Veterans’ Day is just for them (veterans). They deserve it.”
Thomas said after trying to get someone to take responsibility for it she started calling friends to help her in saluting the dead veterans lying in the cemetery. A number of her friends turned out and now annually place the small pieces of red, white, and blue cloth mounted on dowels in the ground.

World War II veterans Si Reid and Howard Abercrombie were two of the volunteers that Thomas had out Wednesday. They, like Thomas, said they were honored to take part in the placing of the small flags but felt that it was sad it fell to them to do it in the manner they did rather than have a more organized group doing the task.
“Marie is doing a wonderful job,” said Reid, “but she shouldn’t have to do it. I would hope some group would come forward and volunteer to continue to do this.”