For young military cadet Joseph Ringer, taking the time to place U.S. flags on veterans’ graves in Washington Cemetery instills in him a sense of pride.
“They served their country. They deserve it,” said Ringer, 18, a member of the Junior ROTC at Trinity High School.
He was among a small army of young people who placed more than 5,500 flags on veterans’ graves Friday in advance of Memorial Day, which falls on May 26.
John N. King, adjutant at American Legion Post 175 in Washington, said the students separate in teams and simply walk the grounds looking for flag markers or tombstones that state they are there for a veteran.
“It recognizes the person buried there was an honorably discharged veteran,” King said. “As you can see, we have a lot of them.”
The Washington County Young Marines also volunteered for the job, along with the local Rainbow Girls, a Boy Scout troop from First Christian Church and members of the Order of DeMolay.
“We can’t let these guys forget,” said Sgt. Major David Massullo, the Army Junior ROTC instructor at Trinity.
Massullo said his students get excited when they discover graves of soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War and Civil War because many of them didn’t realize Washington Cemetery has such veterans buried within its borders.
“Our goal is to make better citizens of our young people,” he said.
Washington County spent $32,340 this year to replenish the supply of grave markers and purchase 38,160 miniature flags for 42 groups that distribute them on graves, said Barry Grimm, the county’s veterans affairs director.
“We’re helping our veterans,” said Colton Gray, 18, another member of the Junior ROTC at Trinity.
“We’re just trying to set an example for our younger classmates,” Gray said. “That’s why we do it.”