American flags placed on veterans’ graves across the county


Each year, a group of dedicated volunteers spends countless hours placing flags on the graves of veterans in Jackson County in the days leading up to Memorial Day.

In Carr Township, that group consists of Charles “Chuck” Darkis of Norman, James Ault of Medora and David Newkirk of Vallonia. All three are veterans of the U.S. Army and spent time in Vietnam during that war, which ended April 30, 1975.

Each has their own reasons for giving of their time to place flags on the graves of the nearly 300 veterans buried in 13 cemeteries in Carr Township.

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“My commitment to the veterans is personal and patriotic,” Darkis said Thursday before placing flags on the graves of the 50-plus veterans buried at Weddleville Cemetery.

Darkis spent 22 years in the army and another year in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“I had combat service in Vietnam, and I am a volunteer driver for the Veterans Service Office in Brownstown,” he said. “I’ve been driving the VA van for 10 years. Somebody has to do it, and I believe in giving back if you can.”

Darkis became involved in placing flags on veterans’ graves for Memorial Day in 2007 at the request of Herschel Forgey of Brownstown. Forgey, who died in October 2017, headed up the effort for many years, especially in the western part of the county.

Forgey continued to help Darkis for a couple of years after taking over Carr Township, which is located in the southwestern corner of Jackson County and includes the towns of Medora and Sparksville.

“When he quit coming down, I found out it had become too much for one man,” Darkis said.

That’s when he recruited Ault and Newkirk.

“I got tied up with the Day of Caring years ago, and then I got into this with him (Darkis),” said Ault, who was a sergeant in the army.

“I just feel like every veteran deserves to get something,” he said. “They went over and fought for their country but didn’t always want to do it.”

Newkirk said he thinks placing the flags on graves is an important way to help remember those veterans who have passed away.

Most of the veterans’ graves in Carr Township are located in three graveyards — White River Valley Cemetery, Beam Heighten Hill Cemetery and Weddleville Cemetery.

The Weddleville Cemetery, established in 1892 and also known as Pea Ridge Cemetery, is typical of many cemeteries in the county and contains the graves of veterans of the Civil War, World War I, World War II and Korean and Vietnam wars.

“There are 15 to 20 graves in most of the rest of them,” Ault said.

At least one veteran is buried in a couple of smaller cemeteries, which aren’t easily accessible to the public, Ault said.

“I think they should be, though,” he said.

The number of graves needing flags each year continues to grow as more veterans’ graves are found, Ault said.

He said the three wait to place flags on the graves until the cemetery is mowed, and they then take the flags back out shortly after Memorial Day.

“They are only there four or five days,” he said. “I take them home and clean them up for the next year.”

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