Monongahela Cemetery flag projects honor veterans both living and dead
More than 4,000 flags fly alongside graves in Monongahela Cemetery, testaments to the service veterans buried there provided to America.
The flags were placed on the graves by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Carroll Township.
Meanwhile, Ringgold Middle School students are planning to perform a similar community service later this month at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Carroll Township.
The cemeteries will be prepared in time for Memorial Day as the area residents rally around American Legion posts in Monongahela and Carroll Township.
On Wednesday, more than 90 volunteers, including many families, spent more than two hours placing the flags.
Scott Frederick, a member of the Monongahela Cemetery Board, learned last year that Frank Downer American Legion Post 302 in Monongahela needed help to place the flags throughout the historic cemetery.
The cemetery opened in 1863 at the height of the Civil War.
Frederick recruited 60 members of his church to pitch in last year. Post Commander David Thompson and Adjutant Stu Isaac coordinated the project this year.
“The involvement of the young kids was especially touching,” Frederick said. “They thought it was a privilege to do that community service.”
Flags will be placed on the graves of more than 1,500 veterans in Sacred Heart Cemetery. The project is scheduled for May 22, said Jim Ferguson, commander of James C. Ford American Legion Post 949 in Carroll Township.
It has become an annual project for students in Ferguson's sixth-grade accelerated math class at Ringgold Middle School.
Al Veliky, a Monongahela city councilman and retired Ringgold teacher, is preparing the markers in anticipation of the project.
Ferguson said Ringgold supports the project, providing transportation to and from the cemetery for the students. The work is expected to take 1½ to two hours to complete.
In mid-December, students in Ferguson's accelerated algebra II class decorated veterans' graves at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Bridgeville as a part of national Wreaths Across America Day. Frederick volunteered for that project.
Since 1992, Morill Worcester, of the Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington, Maine, has been donating thousands of wreaths for placement on graves at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
His effort has expanded to Wreaths Across America and supplies wreaths to more than 230 state and national cemeteries and veterans monuments across the nation.
Ferguson began laying wreaths at the veteran's cemetery in 2012, recruiting his students to help.
Community service in honor of veterans has special meaning to Ferguson, a Vietnam War veteran. Ferguson served from 1969 to1971 with the U.S. Army's 15th Medical Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division.
“It's a great thing for the kids,” Ferguson said. “They're giving back to society. They're honoring our fallen veterans.
“It gives them a sense of appreciation. I've gotten a lot of thanks from their parents for us doing this.
“I think the kids are learning something about the importance of Memorial Day.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.