Volunteers come together to honor deceased veterans

When Daniel Nourse arrived at Riverview Cemetery on Thursday morning to help place American flags on the graves of veterans, he was afraid he had arrived during a funeral procession.

But when he parked his truck behind a line of vehicles, he realized all of the people gathered around wanted to help honor the many veterans buried there.

In recent years, only a few dedicated volunteers have shown up to take on the task of making sure each and every veteran’s grave is marked with a flag for Memorial Day.

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But this year, American Legion Post 89 in Seymour took a different approach to recruiting.

“We put something on Facebook and invited anyone who wanted to come out and help to just show up,” said Post Commander Gary Anderson.

Although his eyesight prevents him from being able to identify the headstones of veterans himself, Anderson said he is thankful for all those who help carry out the Memorial Day tradition each year.

“I hope one day someone puts a flag on my grave,” said Anderson, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955 to 1963 during the Vietnam War era.

More than a dozen local veterans, families and even Boy Scouts answered the call for help, grabbing bundles of rolled-up miniature U.S. flags provided by the legion and spreading out across the vast cemetery.

“It’s nice to pull up and see the turnout,” Nourse said. “It’s pretty impressive how the community pulls together and is doing this for our troops.”

Nourse, who is Anderson’s son, said this was his fourth year to help mark the graves. As a retired military veteran himself, he said it’s an honor to be able to pay respects to all those who served their country.

“I was in the Marine Corps and did four deployments, and then I went into the Army and did a deployment with them,” he said.

After 17½ years in the military, he retired for medical reasons.

“This really hits home with me to be able to do this,” he said of placing the flags. “I love that Seymour pulls together so much for all kinds of stuff, not just the veterans.”

With more than 1,000 veterans buried at Riverview, it’s quite the task to find all of the graves. Some headstones date back to the Civil War and are difficult to read because of their age and condition. Some are easier to identify because they are made of white stone and have rounded tops.

Nourse doesn’t know exactly how many veterans are buried at the cemetery, but he knows it’s a lot.

The American Legion will conduct its annual Memorial Day ceremony at 11 a.m. Monday in the Legion Annex parking lot at 402 W. Second St. The location was moved away from Riverview Cemetery this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Frank Cottey, head caretaker at Riverview, said he would have liked for the ceremony to have happened there but was worried more than 100 people would attend.

Elijah Downey of Seymour and some of his fellow Boy Scouts from Troop 529 have participated in the ceremony before, but this was their first year to take an active role by placing flags.

It gave the boys a little better understanding of Memorial Day.

“We’re doing this for our country so veterans are recognized after they’re dead for what they did,” Downey said. “Some of them died in combat and they might not have family members that live around here.”

Nearly one of every 10 headstones was a veteran’s, he said.

“Some sections (of the cemetery) more than others,” he said.

One grave Downey went to mark with a flag caught his eye. Army veteran Paul Eldon Speckner, who served during World War II, was born June 14, 1924, and died in August 2011.

“Hey, he had the same birthday as me, which is also Flag Day,” Downey said.

Also participating were twins Will and Wes Proffer of Seymour and their mother, Glenda, who is a veteran, too, and one of the troop’s scoutmasters. She served in the U.S. Air Force from 1995 to 1999.

“Their father is a veteran, as well,” she said. “My husband was in 24 years and retired from the Air Force.”

She is glad the boys could do their part.

“It’s a reminder for them what people sacrificed,” she said.

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Due to COVID-19 precautions, American Legion Post 89’s annual Memorial Day ceremony will be at 11 a.m. Monday in the parking lot outside the post annex, 402 W. Second St., Seymour.

Post Commander Gary Anderson said Tuesday the move was made because of restrictions in place at Riverview Cemetery on the city’s north side.

Brownstown’s ceremony, which has typically been conducted at Fairview Cemetery on the Sunday afternoon before Memorial Day, has been canceled.

Officials with Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1083 in Crothersville will be placing flags on veterans’ graves at Crothersville, Uniontown and Cana cemeteries today, Post Commander Jon Tracy said.