Graves Restoration

Ever wonder how a flag holder happens to be set on a recently deceased veteran grave, or how the flags appear in those flag holders on Memorial Day? Do you need a broken, stolen, or lost flag holder replaced? Who does one call? That function is the responsibility of the Graves Restoration and Decoration Committee of the John P. Eaton American Legion Post. In 1922, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post in Corning was experiencing declining membership, as all were veterans of the Civil War, and they were getting too old to decorate Civil War Veterans’ graves. In addition, Spanish-American vets and recent WW I veterans would be added to the rolls of veterans whose graves were to be decorated. The GAR approached the recently formed John P. Eaton Post and “passed the torch” of that honored duty, as well as the maintenance of the then, Decoration Day activities. The Post still proudly displays that printed GAR declaration in our new post home.

 

The first chairman of that new post committee was Leo McMahon, a WW I veteran. He oversaw the decoration of graves, and the inauguration of standard flag holders for flags, until after the end of WW II. From 1922 to 1947, Leo faithfully carried on that honor, as well as serving as post Commander, and various governance system positions. In 1947, Carlton Backer, a recent WW II veteran, accepted the passing of the torch. He served for 25 years as chairman, as well as Post Commander, Board of Directors member and President, and accepting the added duty earned by Korean War vets.

The next Past Commander, Board member, and Board President to serve as chair of this now-recognized position was Richard Hill, my father. He too, served in this honorable position for exactly 25 years (1962- 1987), before turning it over to Dorman Hooey, Sr. Dorman had also been a Past Commander. His health deteriorated, and he was forced to ‘pass’ the torch, again. In 1990, I took over the position, on advice of both my father (he wanted a sort of tradition to begin) and Bill Crane, Past Commander and long-time Adjutant.

Since I had helped my father for many years, I felt it would be an honor to fall in step with so many patriotic gentlemen. In the two years that I was deployed in both Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, Bill Crane stepped up to the plate and performed magnificently! Aw, he was always involved in the Memorial Day event, and knew the ropes as well as anyone. But Bill did add one more Legion ‘cap’ to wear…and he earned it! He never missed a beat!
So how is all this done? Well, the process has only been ‘tweaked’ a few times since 1922. It all starts at the Steuben County Veterans’ Service Officers’ group in Bath, NY. They receive notification from funeral directors, or the family, or even through the obituary columns of numerous Steuben County newspapers. They begin a ‘list’ of deceased veterans, and by early May of each year, they’ll order the appropriate flag holder style for each veteran. About ten days prior to Memorial Day, JP Eaton post is notified to pick up a list and the new flag holders, for placement in nine Corning-area cemeteries. My task is to go to each of the cemeteries, and locate each deceased veterans’ grave. I’ll then place the flag holder near the plot or stone monument. I do have the cemetery sextants’ phone numbers if I just can’t locate a plot myself.
The Sunday before Memorial Day is Flag Decoration time. Many volunteers are called for, and many respond. Some of these volunteers have been doing this for years, and have chosen a “favorite” cemetery to place flags. Volunteers come in all ages; from cub scouts to senior citizens. We are in no hurry, both to not miss a flag holder, and to observe the solemn duty we perform. We don’t miss many, but if we do, the calls come into the Post, and I’ll respond immediately. I make it a habit to call the family missed, apologize for the oversight, and generally give a reason why the veteran was missed. It’s usually because a flag holder was missing or stolen from the plot, or misplaced by the lawn crews. Those veterans without a flag holder create a whole new situation.

So how is all this done? Well, the process has only been ‘tweaked’ a few times since 1922. It all starts at the Steuben County Veterans’ Service Officers’ group in Bath, NY. They receive notification from funeral directors, or the family, or even through the obituary columns of numerous Steuben County newspapers. They begin a ‘list’ of deceased veterans, and by early May of each year, they’ll order the appropriate flag holder style for each veteran. About ten days prior to Memorial Day, JP Eaton post is notified to pick up a list and the new flag holders, for placement in nine Corning-area cemeteries. My task is to go to each of the cemeteries, and locate each deceased veterans’ grave. I’ll then place the flag holder near the plot or stone monument. I do have the cemetery sextants’ phone numbers if I just can’t locate a plot myself.

The Sunday before Memorial Day is Flag Decoration time. Many volunteers are called for, and many respond. Some of these volunteers have been doing this for years, and have chosen a “favorite” cemetery to place flags. Volunteers come in all ages; from cub scouts to senior citizens. We are in no hurry, both to not miss a flag holder, and to observe the solemn duty we perform. We don’t miss many, but if we do, the calls come into the Post, and I’ll respond immediately. I make it a habit to call the family missed, apologize for the oversight, and generally give a reason why the veteran was missed. It’s usually because a flag holder was missing or stolen from the plot, or misplaced by the lawn crews. Those veterans without a flag holder create a whole new situation.

If a family member does not receive a flag holder, then a break in the procedure has happened. The reasons are many, but the solution is simple. Call the post at 654-7735, giving the veterans name, date of death, and a number to reach you. The Club Manager will forward that info to the Service Officer, which is also me, and I will remedy the situation for you. You will need to have a copy of the veterans DD214 or Discharge certificate. I’ll hand-carry that info to Bath, and arrange to provide a new flag holder, and place it for you.
If you are missing a flag holder, use the same call routine. The post has authorized the Service Officer and Flag Chair to purchase additional flag holders each year. Their generosity and patriotism will allow for a planned program to replace missing and damaged holders in all of our cemeteries within the next few years.
In summary, as the Boy Scouts say, “Be prepared.” Veterans, have copies of your DD214 available for your family. Relatives, be sure to notify funeral directors of your loved one’s wishes concerning both flag holders and veteran plaques. Lastly, please take advantage of your service officer should you feel you may need assistance. I’ll be waiting on your call.

Brian J. Hill


The History of Veterans Day

Did you know that most Americans confuse Veterans Day with
Memorial Day? Learn the history of Veterans Day.

What Do You Know About Veterans Day?

Veterans Day gives Americans the opportunity to celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of all U.S. veterans. However, most Americans confuse this holiday with Memorial Day, reports the Department of Veterans Affairs.

What’s more, some Americans don’t know why we commemorate our Veterans on Nov.11. It’s imperative that all Americans know the history of Veterans Day so that we can honor our former service members properly.

A Brief History of Veterans Day

Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, was originally set as a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11, 1918. In legislation that was passed in 1938, November 11 was “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.'” As such, this new legal holiday honored World War I veterans.

In 1954, after having been through both World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress — at the urging of the veterans service organizations — amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

In 1968, the Uniforms Holiday Bill ensured three-day weekends for federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. Under this bill, Veterans Day was moved to the last Monday of October. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holiday on its original date. The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on Oct. 25, 1971.

Finally on September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of Nov. 11, beginning in 1978. Since then, the Veterans Day holiday has been observed on Nov. 11.

Celebrating the Veterans Day Holiday

If the Nov. 11 holiday falls on a non-workday — Saturday or Sunday — the holiday is observed by the federal government on Monday (if the holiday falls on Sunday) or Friday (if the holiday falls on Saturday). Federal government closings are established by the U.S Office of Personnel Management. State and local government closings are determined locally, and non- government businesses can close or remain open as they see fit, regardless of federal, state or local government operation determinations.

United States Senate Resolution 143, which was passed on Aug. 4, 2001, designated the week of Nov.11 through Nov. 17, 2001, as “National Veterans Awareness Week.” The resolution calls for educational efforts directed at elementary and secondary school students concerning the contributions and sacrifices of veterans.

The difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day

Memorial Day honors service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle. Deceased veterans are also remembered on Veterans Day but the day is set aside to thank and honor living veterans who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime.