Local volunteers place flags on veterans’ graves for Memorial Day

There are 226 cemeteries in Jackson County.

At the largest one, Riverview Cemetery in Seymour, there are 1,355 veterans buried there.

Margaret Wilson with American Legion Post 89 in Seymour has determined those numbers while working on a county database of veterans’ graves and identifying who puts flags on those graves for Memorial Day.

On Thursday morning, she was among nearly 30 people with American flags in hand who walked around the 56-acre cemetery on the city’s north side to help with the annual effort.

“Us at the legion just kind of pulled together,” Post Commander Daniel Nourse said. “Margaret Wilson is absolutely amazing. She does so much with all of this that it blows my mind. If you need to know where a veteran is buried in Jackson County, ask Margaret Wilson. She’s on it. She knows.”

Members of the Seymour Young Marines, athletes with Special Olympics Indiana Jackson County, employees of Seymour Walmart Supercenter, Mayor Matt Nicholson, city employees and others were among the volunteers at Riverview.

“I’d say we probably have twice as many this year as we did last year,” said Nourse, who is just beginning his second year as post commander. “It was a real good turnout.”

Nourse, a medically retired combat veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for about 17 years, said he doesn’t help with the flag placing for the recognition. He does it for the cause.

“This holiday is one of the most important to me,” he said.

Shawn Riley, unit commander of the Seymour Young Marines, also is a veteran, having served with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Placing the flags meant a lot to him, too, especially because 10 Young Marines helped.

“It’s hard to get kids to understand what veterans are and what it means to them,” he said. “We do the veterans remembrance in Indianapolis whenever they come home. We honor them that way, and that’s amazing, so we’ve done this in Columbus, the Wreaths Across America, for the last 15 years.”

The local Young Marines group had been based in Columbus for the past 22 years before moving to Seymour earlier this year, so helping with Thursday’s effort was a perfect opportunity to support the community.

“It’s amazing,” Riley said. “It’s a good opportunity for veterans appreciation. They get community service. It’s good to teach them respect about the veterans, even the graveyard not walking on the graves.”

Erin Murphy, 11, of Seymour was among the Young Marines who volunteered their time to help.

“My dad was in the Marine Corps, and my grandparents have been in the military,” he said. “It could help me kind of carry on the responsibility of being in the military and volunteering for that.”

He said it was good to see fellow members participate.

“As a group, we can learn other teamwork tactics,” Murphy said. “I want us to be better as a team and learn more about each other.”

As for the city’s involvement, Nicholson said he asked department heads if they were available to help, and a handful of them were able to be there.

“Last year, I came out and helped,” he said. “You don’t think about the behind the scenes of getting all of these put up, so with that, my mind went, ‘OK, if anybody is available, let’s go do it.’”

Jarin Gladstein, utility director for Seymour Water Pollution Control, said he also appreciates the work of the volunteers.

“You drive by and you see every flag out here, somebody has come out here and put them out and come back and picked them up every time,” he said. “You don’t think about the fact that people take their time to come do this. It’s nice to see.”

Assistant Utility Director Doug Gregory said it was an honor to help. Both he and Gladstein have had family members serve in the military.

“They fight for our freedom. You can’t forget the sacrifice they did make,” Gregory said.

“I respect anybody in the military, honestly,” Gladstein said. “I haven’t done it, so everybody else does it for me. You can’t help but respect them.”

The three Special Olympics athletes who placed flags also have veterans in their family.

Dale Hickman said he knows of at least five family members who have served, and one is active duty. Tim Ashburn said two brothers served. Derrick Martin said a cousin and two uncles were in the U.S. Navy, and his grandfather was in the U.S. Army.

Roger Dillman also joined the Special Olympics athletes Thursday morning, and he said his grandfather served.

Of getting to place flags on veterans’ graves, Hickman said, “It was amazing.”

Martin said he was glad to be part of the effort. The athletes placed flags at the City Cemetery, too.

“I am happy for the people who put the flags on the graves,” he said. “Some people, their family doesn’t do that.”

It was important for Dillman to help, too.

“It’s just remembering what they died for,” he said. “We’re here because of them. People died for us. Look what they left us. They left us a wonderful place.”

At Fairview Cemetery in Brownstown on Thursday, around 250 Brownstown Central Middle School students and teachers joined officials with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and American Legion Post 112 to put flags on veterans’ graves.

Teacher John Lawson said this effort started a few years ago with his wife, Susan Lawson, and he has assumed the lead on it based on their teaching assignments.

He said every student at the school except a few who were on a field trip helped with placing flags.

“My Tribe (homeroom) and two others earned a field trip as a reward. I was the one that organized placing the flags, so I stayed behind,” Lawson said. “It’s a great event.”

Also Thursday, American Heritage Girls Troop IN-1273 and Trail Life USA Troop IN-2206, both based at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seymour, took care of placing flags on veterans’ graves at Lutheran Cemetery on the far west side of the city. Both groups make it a priority for members to do community service projects throughout the year.

At 8 a.m. today, volunteers planned to gather to help Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1083 place flags on veterans’ graves at cemeteries in Crothersville and Uniontown. Anyone who has a family member who was a veteran buried at these cemeteries and would like to have a flag placed for Memorial Day weekend may call the VFW at 812-793-3565.