Keeping with a tradition close to 100 years old, a group of local veterans from the American Legion Post 274 gather at to honor their fellow service members they have lost. They plant more than 3,000 American flags in military service men and women’s graves every year.
“Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have served and have passed on,” said American Legion Secretary Treasurer Jerry O’Shaughnessy, who was at Hillside with his children Thursday morning. O’Shaughnessy is a Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam and Cuban Conflicts.
Dr. Edson R. Brewer, grandfather of Paul Womble, started the tradition of replacing the flags at local cemetaries each year around Memorial Day in 1926. Womble is one of the men who continue that tradition today.
The group spends about three to four hours in the morning for three days to make sure they replace the flags at all the appropriate graves. They use binders of maps and names to guide their way, and it takes a lot of energy digging the holes in the rocky ground to get the flags in deep enough.
“In the old cemetery, we can’t find all the revolutionary war graves because you can’t read the stones anymore,” O'Shaughnessy said.
O'Shaughnessy is worried that the tradition may fade with time as well.
“It is getting harder for the older veterans in their 60s, 70s, 80s. I don’t know how many years we are going to be able to keep doing this.”
O'Shaughnessy hopes that younger veterans will start joining them and keep the tradition alive.