The one thing I enjoy is looking for inspiring and heartwarming stories of all kinds of occasions, experiences and places around the world. Recently, I came across the following article, which, to me, was an interesting and heartwarming story of a national cemetery in Alabama. Since the story and the happenings in the cemetery take place only twice a year (Memorial Day and Veterans Day), I thought that it would be something nice to share with you as we celebrate Memorial Day!
The Avenue of Heroes at Magnolia Cemetery is one again festooned with American flags, thanks to family members who have donated service members’ casket flags. Flown twice a year, at Memorial Day and Veterans Day, the flags line the cemetery’s entrances at Ann Street and at Virginia Street.
The cemetery started the program with the first display of flags in 2007.
The Veterans Administration honors deceased veterans with a large, 6-foot-by-8-foot flag to drape over his or her casket at the funeral. Traditionally, the flag is folded and handed to the surviving spouse after the service. “Most people get one and think, ‘What do I do with this?'” said Tom McGehee, president of the Friends of Magnolia Cemetery. “Then they sit on a shelf or in a closet.”
After a flag is donated to the cemetery, it’s hung from a pole with an engraved plaque attached that includes the veteran’s name, rank, branch of service and war, if applicable, said Janet Savage, executive director of Magnolia Cemetery.
It takes two days for Mark Halseth, cemetery superintendent, to put up all the flags. As of today, 65 flags are flying at the cemetery. “The Internet is amazing,” said Savage, noting that 24 of the flags are from out of state from families who learned about the program online.
Savage’s own uncle’s flag is among those flying at Magnolia. “He was missing in action in World War II, and his flag had been in the closet for 60 years,” she said. “There are a lot of stories out there.”
“It really is a pretty sight on a breezy day,” said McGehee.
When the flags are taken down, they’re stored at the cemetery office until the next holiday. The Friends group even bought a dryer to completely dry the flags before they go into storage.
For more information about the Avenue of Heroes program, contact Janet Savage at (251) 432-8672.
Meanwhile, each of the 3,867 graves at the adjacent Mobile National Cemetery received a miniature American flag, stuck 12 inches from the front of the headstone, on Friday, as they do every Memorial Day.
Usually, a group volunteers to put out the flags and pick them back up, but this year no one stepped up, said Larry Robinson, program support assistant at Barrancas National Cemetery at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola.
“We have a contract to put out the flags in case we don’t have volunteers,” Robinson said.
In Pensacola, Boy Scouts are volunteering to adorn the markers of some 30,000 graves, he said.
Established in 1865, Mobile National Cemetery holds the remains of veterans of eight wars: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, War Between the States, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs brochure.
National Cemetery is a closed cemetery, meaning no more interments can take place there.