Honoring the Fallen

On a rainy and windy evening Saturday, May 26, Vanessa Gray, president of the Lincoln Cemetery Society, the non-profit that owns the facility, places a temporary American flag next to the headstone of U.S. Army Private First Class Milford Jones as part of the preparation for Memorial Day on Monday, May 28. Jones served in Vietnam and was awarded a Purple Heart. Family members have placed a hat decorated with an emblem and the embroidered lettering of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and Combat Team, also known as “sky soldiers,” next to the grave. “I’ve always had a connection with this grave,” said Gray. “The hat has been here since I’ve been here, which is about three years. He stood up for me and I can definitely stand up for him by cleaning his grave, honoring and remembering him. It’s the only grave that has a hat.”

A team of about six volunteers gathered at Lincoln Cemetery on Saturday, May 26 to make sure than an American flag was placed next to each veteran’s headstone for the national Memorial Day holiday on Monday, May 28.

This ritual is done annually.

Throughout the cemetery, 296 military graves have been identified representing conflicts dating back to the Civil War.

In addition to the volunteers, family members and others who tend specific gravesites place flags.

People also place change on graves to honor veterans. A penny is left by anyone who wishes to respect a veteran, while a nickel shows the visitor trained or was at boot camp with the deceased service member. A dime represents soldiers who served together, and a quarter designates that the person who left it was present when the deceased was killed.

At some cemeteries, the coins are collected on a regular basis to help pay for expenses such as grounds maintenance.

“I don’t collect the change because it belongs to the veterans,” said Vanessa Gray, president of the Lincoln Cemetery Society, the non-profit that owns the facility. “I believe in leaving all of it. I’ll be cleaning around a grave and when I find a coin I’ll say, ‘Oh look! A penny. You can have it back.’”

At least one veteran’s grave in Lincoln Cemetery receives all four coins, said Gray.

The temporary flags are picked up the day after Memorial Day, said Gray.

To volunteer for flag duty and for other activities at the cemetery, contact Gray at 727-280-6635 or visit lincolncemeterysociety.org.


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