The volunteers descended on the cemetery, armed with bundles of bright American flags slung over their shoulders or tucked beneath their arms. The flags were free, a gift provided by the American Legion. Their mission was simple: plant a flag at the grave of every military service member that is buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery.
Many of the volunteers were veterans themselves. For them, this Memorial Day endeavor was personal.
Jonathan Haines, a retired military serviceman, attended the event with his family.
“When decorating a gravesite of a fallen service member, you approach the gravesite respectfully,” Haines said.
Most service members direct the process of a formal military salute toward the grave.
“One of the other things that is important to practice is that you say the service member’s full name,” Haines explained. “It is said that service members die two deaths. Once is when they physically die, and the second is when their name has been no longer spoken or said. And so in order to honor them and to keep their memory alive, say their full name in paying tribute.”
Lindsey Zea, a recent graduate of BYU-Idaho, attended the event for the first time this year.
“I think the most memorable thing about this event is just tying the past into the present,” Zea said. “I was doing that, and honoring those people that have served in our country. It gave me a chance to remember. I felt gratitude for the freedom that I enjoy in my life all the time, and I recognize that that the blessings I have in my life come out of sacrifice. Remembering that will help me to appreciate what I have and to continue to do what I can to preserve freedom and liberty.”
For more information about Memorial Day ceremonies, visit the Arlington National Cemetery website.