FAYETTE CO., PA (KDKA) – Parades and ceremonies for Memorial Day are cancelled across the region, but Fayette County isn’t letting the pandemic get in the way of honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“We have to honor these people. I wouldn’t be standing behind this mic, I wouldn’t have the things I have today without what’s out here,” said Brian Benson who’s the Fayette County Veteran Affairs Director.
Benson stands in the Oak Lawn Cemetery looking out over 1,030 flags that mark the grave of a veteran. On Tuesday, volunteers with the American Legion placed each of the flags as they do every year.
“In years past we got help from the Boy Scouts, the ROTC groups, church groups,” said Robert Doria with the American Legion.
With COVID-19, those groups could not help so the group was forced to do the task alone.
Volunteers was not the only challenge for the project, but factories shut down and the county was almost not able to get the flags shipped in time.
Once the flags were in, they were distributed to local veteran groups who take on the individual cemeteries.
“We have 192 cemeteries, I want to say we ordered over 30,000 flags and 18,000 markers,” Benson said.
Some groups like Rolling Thunder have larger cemeteries that can have over 5,000 veterans that need flags. This year, the group could not come up with enough volunteers and are asking the community for help to finish the cemeteries.
“If I can volunteer any of my time, I’ll be there,” said Kimberly Mayher who comes from a long line of military family members.
Mayher tells KDKA it was disheartening to know that not all veterans may get the flags because of the pandemic.
“Both of my grandfathers were Army and those flags are an overwhelming feeling of love and loyalty,” Mayher said.
As Mayher’s own son serves the country, she’s hopeful more people in the community will step up to make sure this 102-year-old tradition continues in the county.
“Whether it be an hour or two hours, do it for the greater good. Do it for the solders who have passed, who are currently serving. Let’s show them there is still good in the world,” Mayher said.
The flags need to be up by Sunday for the families to visit the gravesites on Memorial Day. So if you are interested in volunteering to help Rolling Thunder finish the project, contact Bernie Caffery at 724-366-3546.