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66 years of tradition: Yatesboro man places flags on veterans' graves

| Saturday, May 26, 2012, 12:29 a.m.

YATESBORO -- If John "Spy" Brochetti marked only one veteran's grave with a flag on Memorial Day it would be his son Frank's who was killed in Vietnam in 1972. That would be enough.

But Brochetti walked through St. Mary's Cemetery in Yatesboro on a sunny, blue-sky, spring day this past week placing American flags near the grave of each veteran to show his appreciation for what they did for this country.

It's something the World War II Marine Corps veteran and member of the Rural Valley American Legion Post 523 has been doing in his hometown cemetery every year without a miss since 1946 -- for 66 years.

"It's not because I lost Frank," said Brochetti. "I did this long before we lost him."

"It's a must thing to do," he said. "These guys, a lot of them, went through hell. They absolutely deserve this."

Brochetti said when he came out of the Marines he joined the American Legion and got started putting flags out on his own.

"In 1946 I had nine graves up here -- I put nine flags on," Brochetti said. "Right now I have 144 and I'm going to run short. We need about 30 more."

"There was a time when we had members coming out of the woodwork," he said. "Anymore today we can't get any help. The younger ones don't want to get involved. It's you guys' job (to carry things on)."

At 89, Brochetti's legs aren't moving as well as they once did so his daughter, Linda Bodnar of Yatesboro, has been helping out her dad more and more with his task of placing the flags.

"The legs don't want to go," said Brochetti. "She said you just sit there. She's gung-ho. Somebody is going to have to fill in here."

Bodnar knows how much the tribute means to her dad.

"He's just so loyal and patriotic," said Bodnar. "He doesn't understand why other people aren't."

She said her dad passed that way of thinking on to his children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces.

"These kids have never met my brother and yet they are able to talk about him like they knew him well," said Bodnar.

She recalled the day she and her dad heard the news about the death of her brother Frank.

"I was 19 and dad and I were home alone, he was sleeping from working the midnight shift, my mother was working and my sisters were both in school," she said.

A call from the family's priest told her to wake her dad.

"He was sitting on the front step waiting for the priest and I could see the reflection in the mirror of a soldier with the priest," she said. "By the time I got outside my dad was half way across the yard going away from them. He was yelling he didn't want to hear it. He knew what they were there for."

"I play that scene out every time I come to the cemetery," she said. "It's painful but you still have to put the flags on."

Bodnar says walking through the cemetery helping her dad place flags is her peace and quiet.

"My retreat," Bodnar said. "It's selfish but I don't want to share this with anybody."

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