May 20, 2009: Pause to reflect on Memorial Day
To The Editor:
Many of us will be visiting local cemeteries this weekend to decorate the graves of loved ones. On some of those graves, a small American flag will already be flying, recognizing that person’s service in the U.S. armed forces.
American Legion Post #216 has for decades counted it a solemn duty to place those flags on the graves of their comrades in Middletown, Hardenburgh and Halcott burial grounds. Every year, individual Legion members have looked after specific cemeteries, replacing flags from the previous Memorial Day, and adding new ones to the graves of those who had passed on in the months that followed. Boy Scout Troop 80 was enlisted to help, and has done so for many years. A few of these Scouts, now middle aged, continue to perform flag duty.
In the past couple of years, the Legion’s own ranks have thinned, and the squad of men who are physically able to tramp the uneven ground of our cemeteries has gotten smaller. This year, the Friends of Middletown Cemeteries, a committee of the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown (HSM), stepped up to help.
Starting with Legion lists, volunteers scanned headstones, cemetery records, census records, the Catskill Mountain News, and other sources to add and verify the names of veterans buried in local cemeteries. Maps showing the locations of those veterans were meticulously prepared for Margaretville, Margaretville Annex and Sanford Cemeteries by Gary Atkin. It’s hoped maps of the others will be made as well so that the next generation of volunteers who plant these flags will know where they belong. The lists and maps are being held by both the Legion and HSM.
This week, Legionnaires, their children and grandchildren, and volunteer community members are completing this annual task. For the record, there are 724 known veterans in 18 local cemeteries. Margaretville has the most (184), and Clovesville has the next highest number of vets (111.) They served in the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.
As you spend some peaceful moments in the cemetery this weekend, pause to reflect on the veterans beneath the flags, and say a word of thanks to the folks who make sure they are not forgotten.