Letter: Leave the flags on our veterans’ graves
On Memorial Day weekend 2011 in Gloucester, nearly 200 volunteers, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts from around the county came out to give of their time and place a flag on every known veteran’s grave in Gloucester. Over 1,300 flags were placed on heroes/veterans’ graves by people who honor the service of these heroes and want to pay their respects to these veterans and their families.
This event takes all year to prepare and all day to execute, but these wonderful volunteers persevere through the heat and nonexistent roads, swarms of mosquitoes, ticks and any number of other insects that bite and leave marks. These volunteers return after placing their flags on their designated graves; muddy, bitten, sore but with a smile on their faces. These heroes honor our veteran heroes that have gone on. So we thank these volunteers that work all year to raise the money to buy the flags one donation at a time, and keep this event in the public eye so when that Memorial Day weekend rolls around the execution of this task is flawless.
This Memorial Day weekend marked the second year this event has honored our veterans and their families marking these graves with a United States flag. The flag will remain on the grave until the following year when it is retrieved and another is placed and the old flag is returned to be disposed of with dignity and respect.
It has been my honor to assist any way that I could although I am a disabled veteran in a wheelchair so I take pictures and assist with fundraising, etc. David Olson of Gloucester is the son of a deceased veteran that was a mentor to me and numerous others at Fort Eustis. David has been the glue holding this event together and he served as a local Cub Scout Pack leader and now serves on the council, not to mention a commander in the Coast Guard Reserve. David has organized this event and motivated many to come out and get involved. This event would have never been possible without his leadership and involvement, so for this I say thank you, David.
Having said all of this it is my sad duty to report that some of the local cemeteries over the past two years have removed these flags after only one or two days of placing them. The families I have spoken to are appalled that these flags were removed without their consent or even being notified of their removal.
Is it too much to ask that we allow these flags to remain on the graves of our fallen heroes from Memorial Day to at least the 4th of July or even better, the entire year? I hear people say to me all the time "thank you for your service." Well, I think it is just as important to thank these brave veterans and their families for their service by allowing these flags to remain on the graves and should they become weathered or tattered we can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will retrieve the old flag and retire it properly and place a new one. If they are not able to do this, they can send a courtesy e-mail to us and we will come and pick up the unwanted flags so as to reduce our flag expense, honoring those families and cemeteries that wish to pay homage to their fallen veterans from the Revolutionary War to present-day Iraq and Afghanistan.
I will close by saying just this, "If you like your freedom, thank a vet!"
Arnold M. Bryson
CWO (U.S. Army-ret.)