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Volunteers begin the process of placing close to 9,000 flags on graves of veterans at Lake View Cemetery

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Posted at 7:23 PM, May 25, 2023

CLEVELAND — At Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, an army of volunteers dispersed Thursday morning in teams of two with maps in one hand and American flags in the other. They are part of a three-day effort to place a flag on each of the nearly 9,000 veterans buried here.

"We could not do it without the volunteers," said Katharine Goss, President and CEO of Lake View. "We don't want to miss anybody, so we need three solid days of literally hundreds of volunteers."

They had hoped for 200 volunteers; this year, 300 signed up. Folks like the Underwoods of Cleveland Heights saw volunteers doing this last year and wanted in. For them, it puts the holiday in perspective.

"I don't have any veterans in my family," said Jane Underwood. "My father wanted to serve, but he was designing Liberty ships instead. And he gave to the veterans the rest of his life."

Donald Underwood's Dad was in World War II, and his brother was in Vietnam. They made it home, but his family always remembered on Memorial Day those who didn't.

"The first time my brother and my whole family got together was when he came back from Vietnam," he said.

Each Memorial Day is marked with a 10:30 a.m. service at the final resting place of President James Garfield. A fitting spot since it was Garfield, as a young Congressman from Ohio, spoke at the first Memorial Day service, then known as Decoration Day, at Arlington National Cemetery just three years after the end of the Civil War.

"So fast forward to today," Goss said. "It's terrific for us to have Memorial Day at his tomb and memorial building."

In that 1868 address, Garfield said that day of the 15,000 war dead buried before him that "they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country, they accepted death... and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue."

Brenda Lang of Brunswick never read those words, but to be sure, she felt their meaning, and that's why she's here.

"When I signed up," Lang said. "I said, please choose me to do this because it is an honor. My Dad served in World War II, and I just think of him, remember him, when I'm out here."