Veterans honor veterans with flags

Published 10:57 pm Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Row upon row of 42-inch-high, white gravestones, perfectly and uniformly spaced, each with a small flag placed in front of it — an image that evokes thoughts of sacrifice and service.

Each year, Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery presents this picture-perfect example of honor on Veterans Day by adorning each of the 11,000 graves with a flag.

This year, however, that was almost not the case. Due to staffing shortages, the staff of the cemetery were unable to mark and drill the holes in the hard soil that allows volunteers to place the flags. Instead, the plan was to place two flags in each section of the cemetery.

When Daniel Hockman, post commander for VFW Post 2582, was informed that the flags would not be put out this year, he took action.

“The VFW got the word a couple weeks ago that they were not able to punch the holes and get the cemetery ready for us to put out flags, and we said that was unacceptable.” Hockman said.

Hockman started marshalling forces, reaching out to groups that have volunteered in the past, including Navy Chief Messes, Scouts, the Coast Guard and other veterans groups such as the American Legion. Together, a small group was able to mark and punch all the holes over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

“It took us 37 man-hours to punch all the holes. If we would have had 40 people, we could have been done in an hour,” Hockman said.

The group also placed most of the flags, unsure of how many volunteers would show up Wednesday afternoon.

Dozens of volunteers showed up — veterans wearing vests and hats commemorating their service, Boy and Girl Scouts in uniform and active duty military all came out to help place a flag at each grave.

“We brought the Scouts out here to show respect and teach them about honoring the veterans,” said Cassandra Murdough, a parent of several Scouts from Cub Scout Pack 462.

Her son, Parker Murdough added, “We came out here to put flags on the graves, to honor veterans that served in the military. We pretty much all know someone in the military.”

Most of the volunteers were very young children from the various Scout troops. The cemetery staff was quick to thank the Scouts and their parents for helping.

“All you young folks that are doing all this great stuff, God bless you, it will make you better adults. If these young ones need service time or to earn some badges, we will set them up because they are going to run this place someday,” said cemetery staff member Chris Calhoun.

In total, more than 11,000 flags adorn the graves. The cemetery will be open to the public and be in full dress with the Avenue of Flags flying throughout the weekend.

The VFW is requesting volunteers to assist with the pick up and storage of the flags next week.

“Monday at 2 p.m. we are planning to gather as many volunteers as want to come out to help gather the flags back up, bundle them in groups of 10 and put them back in the bins so they will be ready for Memorial Day next year,” Hockman said. “If we can get volunteers to do the non-pretty parts, please.

“This is all about veterans, that is what the VFW is all about, but we can’t do it alone.”