Service repaid with honor

Over four days, a dedicated group aims to place 5,437 flags on the graves of veterans

May 28, 2006|By DAVID P. GREISMAN | DAVID P. GREISMAN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With dozens of small American flags tucked under their arms, five members of American Legion Carroll Post 31 walked the hills of Pipe Creek Cemetery in Uniontown, calling out names to each other and searching for the corresponding gravestones and markers to plant the flags.

When they finished, 181 military veterans buried or commemorated at the cemetery had the Stars and Stripes waving in the wind for them, an honor extended every Memorial Day weekend to deceased soldiers in Carroll County for more than three decades.

This year, five American Legion and one Veterans of Foreign War posts spent parts of four days distributing and placing 5,437 flags at scores of graveyards throughout the county.

"We place flags on the graves of all people that were veterans," said Jim Smith, a 61-year-old Westminster resident who served in the Navy from 1963 to 1969.

"They don't have to have been killed in war. Just by sacrificing their time, we want to acknowledge that," said Smith, who has organized the flag placement.

After arriving at Pipe Creek on Thursday morning, the first flag inserted was for John T. Dayhoff, a Civil War veteran who died in 1929.

From there, the group moved uphill, reading from a list of names and row numbers, punching small holes in the ground and inserting 2-foot poles with flags attached.

Finding the 11 veterans who have died since 2004 was more difficult.

The men found all but three sites and noted the locations for future reference.

For Norwood "Woody" Bowen, 57, a Westminster resident who served in the Army from 1968 to 1970, this year was his first helping Post 31 distribute its 3,278 flags.

"I wanted to make sure the veterans ... are recognized," Bowen said.

Volunteers from the Union Bridge VFW and the American Legion posts in Taneytown, Mount Airy, Sykesville and Hampstead also visited area graveyards.

"It's an amazing thing when you go around and see how many flags are on the cemeteries," Smith said.

The flags are purchased with the help of Carroll County government, which contributes about $2,000 each year, according to Jeff Topper, chief of the budget office.

"It's the county's way of recognizing the sacrifice and service that these people made for our country," said Vivian Laxton, a county spokeswoman.

George Robinson, 74, of Westminster, who was in the Air Force from 1952 to 1956 and served in Korea, said the country should remember its veterans.

"America is a little quick to forget," he said.

Two hours after arriving at Pipe Creek, the five Post 31 members were ready to head to the next cemetery.

The flags they planted will stay up for one week and will not be replaced until the next year and the next group of veterans.

Phil Luster, 60, of Westminster, who served in Vietnam with the Army from 1968 to 1969, hopes that someday he and his fellow veterans will be remembered the same way.

"We hope they do it for us."

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