At Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC active duty soldiers are given the honored task of decorating every one of the 220,000 graves within the cemetery for Memorial Day.
Each grave receives a US flag one foot from the center of the headstone. Each soldier decorating the grave has hundreds to do but they take great care to place their flags on each grave with care and respect. The respect is not asked for – it is given freely in recognition of the sacrifice made by the deceased for our country.
When all the graves have been decorated the scene is spectacular with thousands of flags blowing in the wind in every direction. A fitting tribute to America’s fallen servicemen and women.
On Saturday, May 26, at 11 a.m. Yorktown held its own version of this ritual of respect and remembrance at the .
Girl Scout Troop 2067 and Cub Scout Pack 251 consisting of students from joined with the to honor Yorktown’s fallen with the same care and respect as in Arlington.
That morning, two graves, those of Thomas Wildey and Albert Sillick, were
singled out for a unique ceremony. Thomas was 26 when he was killed at the Civil War battle of Hanover Court House on May 27, 1862 while serving with the 44th New York Infantry Volunteers. Albert, serving with the 5th New York Duryee’s Zouaves, fell at the second Battle of Bull Run on August 30, 1862 at the age of 20.
These fallen heroes of Yorktown were forgotten by all until a diligent veteran, , discovered the saddening oversight. The discovery of these graves and the coincidental 150th anniversary of these men’s sacrifice
warranted a special ceremony.
Bill Weinecke, a Somers Middle School teacher and Civil War re-enactor from the 5th New York unit Albert was from stood in full Zouave uniform and read a
eulogy for Albert to the 50 or so Scouts and guests gathered at the cemetery. Standing beside him were two of his living history students attired in blue Union Army uniforms.
Girl Scouts from Troop 2067 stepped forward and placed a wreath and American flag on these long overlooked graves. John McQuillan, a member of the Yorktown American Legion and re-enactor played ‘Taps’ over both Thomas’ and Albert’s graves in his full Union Army uniform as was fitting. Following the ceremony Cub Scouts from Pack 251 and Boy Scout Troop 164 placed U.S. flags on the graves of Yorktown’s veterans who are also buried in that cemetery.
More than 490 veterans graves in four cemeteries were decorated with US flags in Yorktown.
Everyone across America should make a point to stop in their local cemetery and see the multitude of flags all around them. Each flag stands for a son or a daughter who served our country with honor. Some made the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield, never to return to enjoy love, family, friendship, and all the freedoms we take for granted every day. God bless them all!
Editor's Note: Thanks to Patrick McDonough of the Yorktown American Legion Post #1009 for the above submission.