On Saturday, May 23, at 9 am at Oak Hill Cemetery in Herkimer, NY a group of volunteers led by the Herkimer Veterans Council marked out and planted a field of flags to honor the fallen. Almost 700 flags will be placed in precise rows. A sign emblazoned with the emblems of the different branches of military service and the words, “remember our veterans” will be situated at the top of the field of flags. Tim Tubia, president of Herkimer Veterans Council said, “When the community comes together to honor all veterans it’s almost an indescribable feeling. You see the sincerity in their eyes, feel their gratitude in a hand shake, and hear it in their voices. It makes you stand a little taller and you feel proud and you are thankful.”
It used to be called Decoration Day. The last Monday in May was set aside to remember fallen soldiers from the Civil War. Since its inception it has become an official holiday and is now known as Memorial day. That is why, as May comes to an end, veteran groups and other civic organizations spend time decorating the graves, memorials, and parks dedicated to our deceased veterans.
Years ago the Herkimer Veterans Council decided to switch their Memorial Day display from their traditional placing of flags on graves to the field of flags. The change was two part. First, they will place 676 flags in Oak Hill Cemetery, 100 in Calvary cemetery, and 50 at a memorial on Mohawk Street versus 1500 – 1600 if they marked the graves with flags. and that number is just at Oak Hill and Calvary Cemetaries. One of the difficulties with placing flags on graves is that as the members get older and older and as they pass the knowledge of who exactly is a veteran passes with them. This makes marking all veteran’s graves problematic.
Another reason for the switch is sheer cost. It can be daunting for a group like the Veterans Council, that relies on donations, to purchase new flags every year. Tim Tubia said, “We were lucky to be able to purchase the flags for just under $1 per flag plus shipping. This year we spent $1300 -$1400 and we only bought 8 gross”
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that in 2011, 670 American World War II veterans died every day. The average age for a WWII veteran in s approximately 92 years. Korean War veterans are estimated to be 69 years old and the average Vietnam veterans will clock in at youthful 65 years old. many of the men and women putting out flags and bunting are getting older and older. somehow, america needs to get our young people involved. get your kids, get your grandchildren, out to these events. the veterans will appreciate your help and together we can keep decorating.
Volunteers and participation will be key in keeping Memorial day and things like Herkimer’s field of flags going. As our veterans age they will need to rely on us the same way we relied on them to protect our freedom. If you have a Boy Scout Troop, Girl Scout Troop, organization, or just a group of friends please contact your local VFW, American Legion, or other veteran organization and become involved. Get out there and help our veterans.
Next time you see a field of flags or a small version of old glory fluttering beside a headstone take a moment, a quiet moment, and remember the sacrifice that soldiers and veterans have made for our freedom. also, take another second to consider the people who continue to decorate the graves, memorials and parks of our fallen.