Volunteers Place Flags On 13,300 Graves - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

05/24/03

Volunteers Place Flags On 13,300 Graves

More than 500 volunteers came out to the Biloxi National cemetery Saturday to place flags on the 13,300 graves. For the many volunteers, placing the flags is a way to give back to our veterans who sacrificed so much.

Barbara Wade carries a bundle of flags and carefully places one on each grave she passes. For her, and the other volunteers, placing American flags on Memorial Day is something she looks forward to.

"It's kind of butterflies in the middle of your stomach. You just walk by and say thank you. Put your hand on the grave and say thank you," Wade said.

Barbara's husband is a Seabee with 45 years in the Navy. She says when he dies, he would like to be buried in the Biloxi National Cemetery.

"His buddies are here, a lot of them now, they'll all be together and ahh I guess in their own unique way they'll be talking to one another, telling Sea stories," Wade said.

The tradition of placing American flags on grave sites dates back to the Civil war, when friends and family would come out to decorate the graves of soldiers fallen in combat. Today that day is called Memorial Day, and the flags commemorate the sacrifices our veterans have made. It's traditional to place the flag about a foot length from the headstone so the soldiers' names can be easily seen.

Donna Hott searches for a friend's graves as she places flags. This is her ninth year in a row coming to the cemetery before Memorial Day. There's a lot of military history in the Hott family. This activity gives her the opportunity to reminisce about what her brethren have done for freedom.

"I figure this is the least I can do for all that they have done all these years," Hott said.

Donna says that this year holds some special meaning for her, especially because of the war with Iraq. Both she and Barbara appreciate people who go into harms way to defend America's freedom.

Barbara Wade sees the old patriotism, in our newer generation of veterans.

"If we go to Keesler Air Force Base or the Seabee base and you see all these young faces and you say my god, long time ago that looked like my husband, young, eager, like they were. I'm just proud of them all," Wade said.

"It's a good reminder that we talk about freedom, I think doing this is a good reminder, a sobering reminder about just how expensive our freedom is at times," Robert Moore said.

U.S. Army Reserve Captain Robert Moore takes a short moment to reflect as he places a flag on each grave.

There will be a brief memorial service on Monday, Memorial Day, at the Cemetery. Rear Admiral Thomas Donaldson will be this year's guest speaker. On Tuesday, volunteers are need to help pick up the flags. If you're interested in helping out, meet at building 3001 at 8 am.

By Nathan Mihelich & Travis Alford

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