As part of an annual event to honor the veterans who have either fallen or otherwise passed away, and their family members, a few hundred people from the community placed American flags in front of every headstone at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery on Saturday.
The flag-laying, which is similar to the wreath-laying during the holidays, began in 2006 when the cemetery opened. It is organized by the Veterans Land Board and happens the Saturday before Memorial Day. The small flags will stay in place until Tuesday.
Historically, many Boy Scout troops take part in the event.
Russell Willbanks, scoutmaster for Troop 229 in Harker Heights, said the event gives the Scouts community service time, which can be used to fulfill requirements for merit badges in the citizenship series — Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation or Citizenship in the World.
“It’s part of giving back,” Willbanks said. “It’s something to teach the Scouts about service and giving back to those that gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
He said troop leaders encourage the Scouts to volunteer to place the flags. Those who do come may also receive a lesson of something from the cemetery, such as the symbolism of leaving coins on a headstone.
According to American Military News, coins on veteran gravestones let that veteran’s family know that someone else has paid respects.
A penny means someone visited, a nickel means the visitor and the deceased trained together in boot camp, a dime means the visitor served with the deceased in some capacity and a quarter means the visitor was with the deceased when they died, the American Military News reported.
Daniann Harper helped place flags on Saturday with her daughter, 9-year-old Kenslee, and her husband, who is actively serving at Fort Hood.
Harper said she and her family participate at events at veteran cemeteries quite often — at least twice a year.
“To teach my daughter what it means to serve in the military,” Harper said of the importance of her daughter being involved. “To be out here to remember everybody that has served and has passed on, like her grandfather.”
She said that Kenslee has begun to grasp an understanding of what it is that she is doing and why.
Members of the Five Hills Jeep Club were also placing flags in Section 2 of the cemetery, including retiree Felix Velazquez and Jacqueline O’Grady.
“I’ve got family members here and someone who served — they deserve the respect,” Velazquez said. “There’s nothing that we could do for them when they were alive, so we get to do it when they’re passed. It’s nothing but an honor.”
Velazquez, who has participated for the past three years, said he spends a lot of time at the grave of his father, who is a Korean War veteran.
O’Grady said she enjoys the events for a couple of reasons.
“For me, I don’t have anyone buried here, but my husband is active-duty and I just enjoy going to the events because I feel like I’m giving to the community,” O’Grady said. “Not only that, but paying respect to our fallen soldiers.”
More than 11,000 veterans and family members are buried or inurned in the cemetery.