Sunday, July 21, 2024

As Memorial Day approaches, veterans and community remember the fallen

Veterans and public service members salute the American flag being raised by cemetery caretaker Bill Brown at the beginning of the Memorial Day tribute. (Katherine Weber/WYDaily)

Local veterans, first responders and residents gathered Friday at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Williamsburg to pay tribute to nearly 400 service members buried there.

Whether the gravestone read one had served in Vietnam, Korea, World War II, or in some other context, the attendees adorned each service member’s gravesite with an American flag.

“To me [Memorial Day] is to honor those who go before us,” said Gary Farmer, a Vietnam War veteran of the Air Force. “I’m one of the lucky ones.”

The Patrick Henry Chapter of Disabled American Veterans organized the event, which has been held each year for over a decade, according to Rodney Corwin, a representative of the organization.

Flags placed by the gravestones of fallen service members by attendees. (Katherine Weber/WYDaily)

That morning, attendees milled about the lush green of the cemetery’s sun-dappled grass. They placed American flags along the white-gray tombstones that marked former service members.

David Lunt, a Coast Guard veteran who came to the event, served in many places around the U.S. including Boston, Yorktown, and California.

He described how given that he came from a family of veterans, Memorial Day was “always…treasured.”

“It’s an opportunity for thinking…considering what others have given,” Lunt said.

The veteran organization has members whose involvements extend from World War II to more recent U.S. military involvements. According to Bill Brown, the cemetery caretaker, the two veterans of World War II were unable to attend on Friday.

Veterans who attended the Memorial Day tribute at Cedar Grove Cemetery. Left to right: Rich Bateman, Gary Farmer, and John Bucelato. (Katherine Weber/WYDaily)

Rich Bateman, another veteran in attendance, served in the Air Force in Afghanistan and other places.

“It’s important to us…I’m proud to honor those who have fallen before us,” Bateman said.

John Bucelato, a veteran of the Navy, planned to also volunteer this weekend by distributing poppy flowers as another way to honor the fallen in the spirit of Memorial Day.

Brown noted a larger turnout this year at the event, which attracted local first responders and community members.

Local Fire Department members who attended the event. (Katherine Weber/WYDaily)

“We got a great response not only from city employees but there’s also a lot of people…that are residents,” Brown said.

Even though Brown is not a veteran himself, his father was a veteran who served in Vietnam.

“This [event] means a lot to me…I’m kind of honoring my father who passed away in 2003,” Brown said. “Because my father was a veteran, to see these people out there, it’s almost like my Dad’s here with me.”

Corwin, who joined the army in 1958 and retired in 1978, stressed the importance of remembering the fallen members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

“We can’t forget them,” Corwin said. “We’ve got to keep remembering them.”

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