U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Allen Frederick Kingman served in World Wars I and II and the Korean War. John Brister Turner was a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II and a Tuskegee Airman. Carl Brack Edwards was a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and served in Vietnam.
These are just some of the names on the more than 500 tombstones of veterans in Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery.
Early Saturday morning members of the C.V. Cummings Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9100, American Legion Post 6 and Boy Scout Troops 505 and 835 placed American flags on the graves of veterans.
“There’s a certain ceremony involved with the placing of the flag,” said Pete Jaeger, 1st vice commander of American Legion Post 6 in Chapel Hill.
The volunteers said the name of each veteran out loud and saluted their tomb before placing the flags. It’s a mini ritual that was repeated 500 times, once for each of the flags placed at a headstone.
VFW State Blogmaster Lee Heavlin said that, “this is probably the first time in a year that these veterans’ names have been said.”
“We want the place dressed for the weekend,” Heavlin said. “Someone will say ‘he has served’ and these people won’t be forgotten.”
At 8 a.m. a short service was held in the cemetery plaza that explained the origins of Memorial Day and included a reading of “In Flanders Fields” by Lt. Col. John McCrae of the Canadian Army and the playing of Taps.
Heavlin said that complacency sets in and many forget those who have and do serve until a holiday like Memorial Day comes around.
“We forget, our society, we do forget,” he said. “Memorial Day is designed so that we never forget that someone walked some place so that when someone said ‘take that hill’ they were there to do it.
“If we forget those who serve, we’re doing a disservice,” Heavlin said. “We won’t let that happen.”
Boy Scout Thomas Robinson, 10, and his father, David Robinson, went from headstone to headstone placing flags and reading names aloud.
Thomas said that he came out because he “just thought it was going to be a really nice thing to do and I wanted to show respect for these people.”
It was Thomas’s first time placing flags and he said that he really liked it.
“It’s a moving experience,” he said. “It makes me remember all of the people. Seeing all of the flags out here, it makes me kind of sad.”
David said that he accompanied his son because he “just wanted to experience this with him.”
“I thought it would be a great thing to share,” he said. “I’ve certainly had family members serve. It’s just important to respect the sacrifices everyone made to give us this great country.”
Gene Drogos of VFW Post 9100 was remembering his comrades as he walked from grave to grave placing flags. Drogos served in WWII and the Korean War.
“I do this every year,” he said. “I’m a little late this year but I’m here. I come here because of my friends. I come out and say hello to them and put a flag on them.”
The ceremony will be repeated in the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery at 8 a.m. Monday followed by an open house at the American Legion Post at 10 a.m. and a joint service of the VFW and American Legion at 11 a.m.