• October 30, 2014

Volunteers decorate 1,200 graves for Memorial Day

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Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:10 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Jade Ortego

Fort Hood Herald

In honor of Memorial Day, volunteers decorated 1,200 veterans' graves with flags at 10 a.m. Sunday.

The organizers also presented a copy of a letter written by WWI soldier John Quincy Adams to the American Legion Post 223, established and named for the soldier.

Sheryl Brown, who organized the event with her husband, Walter, said that they decided to do it after noticing that year after year no one decorated the veterans' graves at the Killeen City Cemetery.

Those buried there include Brown's father, a commander for the American Legion for more than 16 years, her mother, a treasurer for the Legion for 18 years, and her nephew, who was killed in service in Iraq.

The Browns acquired a list from the cemetery so that every veteran's grave would get a flag.

Ten American Legion members participated in the decorating, some others were from the Legion Riders, and the rest were volunteers invited by the Browns through their catering business, Big Boss BBQ. About 40 people participated. The catering business donated the flags.

John Adams was born Dec. 23, 1894. He was the first of 13 soldiers from Killeen who died during WWI; 10 of the others died from pneumonia. Adams wrote the letter October of 1918 shortly before he was mortally wounded on Oct. 15.

The letter is "a friendly letter written to a friend," Brown said, and in it he describes trying to fit his whole body under that tin hat and watching a friend shaking, avoiding mortars. Adams writes in the letter that he is running out of stationary, and it was marked "OK" by an official after he wrote it.

Adams died Nov. 22 of that year, and friends of his family established Post 223 in his honor. It was their first charge to secure his remains from France, where he died, and bring him back to Killeen to be buried.

Brown inherited the letter from her father, who was given the letter from a friend. She decided to give the Post the letter because it's part of their history, and Killeen's history, as well.

"The commander was almost in tears," Brown said. "They're trying to do research, the younger people that are moving in, replacing the older veterans."

Brown said she thinks they helped to inspire the younger members to learn about the history of the Legion.

The Browns intend to make the grave ornamentation a tradition.

"The rain didn't scare us away today. Everyone who went today wants to do it again next year," Brown said.

Contact Jade Ortego at jortego@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553.

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