More than 60 people from March Air Reserve Base placed roughly 1,000 U.S. flags at the graves of all the service members buried at Evergreen Memorial Historic Cemetery in Riverside May 23 to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this country.
John Morris, chief, 452nd Air Mobility Wing special security office, and his colleague, retired Chief Master Sgt. Mike Emett, began the tradition of placing flags at Evergreen Cemetery for Veteran’s Day 2001 and then again for Memorial Day 2002.
The project has been going strong ever since with Morris at the helm. He calls the project a labor of love and has only missed one year, due to a deployment to Iraq in 2006. He’s even used his own funds to purchase flags and has since created a flag fund to ensure there are always flags available to honor the fallen and remind the public of the real meaning of the holiday.
“I think we as a nation have forgotten about what Memorial Day is all about,” Morris said. “It’s about honoring our fallen warriors who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”
The volunteers who participated haven’t forgotten the meaning, and many brought significant others and children with them to share the experience of remembering military members who died in service to their country.
“I took my daughter to lay flags on the graves of the heroes who died serving our country because I wanted her to know that the day was about more than just having a day off school, barbeques or spending time at the beach,” said Jennifer Anderson, personnel security specialist, 452 AMW information protection office. “It’s a time to honor those who have defended and preserved our way of life in the United States of America.”
Maj. Gen. John C. Flournoy, commander, 4th Air Force, and Chief Master Sgt. Brian C. Wong, command chief, 4th Air Force, attended the event and Flournoy brought his children with him to pay tribute.
Flournoy said he enjoyed taking his kids to events like the flag placement because it’s important to expose young people to the true meaning of Memorial Day.
Staff Sgt. Brian Caskie, aircrew flight equipment supervisor, 912th Air Refueling Squadron, has been an avid participant for the last several years because he feels remembering those who came before he is the right thing to do.
“It feels good to be here, like I’m doing my part and making sure they aren’t forgotten, Caskie said”
Morris said this year’s turnout was probably the largest yet and it took a little more than an hour to place all the flags.
Evergreen is the oldest cemetery in Riverside, and is the final resting place for troops going as far back as the Civil War. Others buried there fought in the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam and Iraq.
After all the flags had been placed and all the volunteers had left, Morris could be found roaming the grounds, checking on some of the harder to locate graves to ensure no one was overlooked.
“You recognize your fellow warriors, you put flags on their graves to honor their service and say thank you,” he said. “And I’m hoping someday when I’m gone someone does the same for me.”