GREENFIELD — Henry E. Andis, U.S. Army.
Gilbert Grigsby, U.S. Marine Corps.
Edwin L. Hearch, U.S. Army.
They are just three of the 737 names inscribed on dog tags adorning flags in Park Cemetery in Greenfield this week. Each flag represents a deceased local service member who served the country, whose sacrifice is honored and whose memory lives on.
Every year, members of Dale E. Kuhn American Legion Post 119, the Greenfield Veterans Honor Guard and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2693 come together to place the flags in the cemetery where many veterans are buried.
For more than 40 years, members of the organizations have put the flags before Memorial Day. Each year, 15 to 20 names are added. Family members purchase the flags to honor their loved ones; each year.
Many cities and towns put out small flags to honor their dead, but the flags in Park Cemetery stand as tall as the people they represent, said Bob Workman, commander of the Greenfield Veterans Honor Guard.
On Saturday, about 20 volunteers raced the rain to set up the memorial. One by one, the flags were placed in dedicated spots, an important detail so family members can easily find their loved one’s tribute.
It’s a job the volunteers are happy to do, Workman said.
The day brings together members of each branch of the military.
“It’s actually a lot of fun,” he said. “There’s camaraderie to it.”
On Monday, the Avenue of Flags will be the backdrop for the annual Memorial Day ceremony, and families can take the time to walk the rows to find their loved one’s flag.
Workman said veterans are eager each year to help put the flags up as a way to honor those who have gone before them. After all, that’s the purpose of the holiday.
“It signifies what Memorial Day is all about, which is the freedom of the country and those who fought for that freedom,” he said. “It’s touching.”
It takes the volunteers a few hours to get all the flags up, and they’ll stay in the cemetery for two to three weeks.
In 2008, the memorial was reconstructed, making it easier to get the flags in the ground and in straight lines. Before then, it would take a few days to complete the job.
“It used to be a fiasco,” Workman said.
The flags now stand on identical 10-foot steel poles in perfect rows. Organizers wanted it to look like Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington.
“It looks really nice once they’re all up. People drive through and stop to look at them,” Workman said.
Greenfield Veterans Honor Guard member Mitch Pendlum, who served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, said it’s his job to honor deceased veterans. And he said the Avenue of Flags is a good memorial for residents to see.
“This shows how patriotic the community is,” he said. “It just makes you real proud. Proud to do anything for veterans.”
Wanda Johnson, a Marine Corps veteran and member of the veterans honor guard, first helped to put the flags up in 2013. Her reason for volunteering is simple: “It’s my country,” she said.
The Avenue of Flags is a memorial all residents need to see, she said, especially young students. It’s important they don’t forget the veterans who fought to protect their freedom.
Residents enjoy the Avenue of Flags and the Memorial Day Service, she said, and many times, motorists will cruise through Park Cemetery just to see the memorial.
And she knows why.
“It’s so touching,” she said.
The memorial has space for 1,000 flags. Workman said that’s enough space to add veterans to it for more than a dozen years to come.
The flags are in the same spot every year, and a catalog system keeps track of where each flag goes.
The system helps families know exactly where their loved one’s flag is placed, so they don’t have to search.
Families can purchase a flag and dog tag for their loved one for $50. And the flags are replaced whenever they’re torn or soiled, at no cost to the families.
“Once they pay the $50, the flag goes up every year, forever,” Workman said.
The 737 American flags on display in Park Cemetery this week honor deceased Hancock County members of the military.
Purchasing a flag in honor of a loved one costs families $50. Included in the price is a dog tag bearing the veteran’s name and branch of service.
Each year, 15 to 20 flags are added to the memorial.
There’s space for 1,000 flags.
There are 9,581 stripes in the Avenue of Flags; 5,138 are red; 4,422 are white.
There are 36,850 stars in the Avenue of Flags.
The local American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Greenfield Honor Guard have set up the flags each year for more than 40 years.
The annual Memorial Day service begins at 11 a.m. Monday at Park Cemetery in Greenfield.