Honoring our veterans, one flag at a time

19 May

Every year for more than 50 years, in the weeks immediately preceding Memorial Day, members of the Webster VFW Post 9483 in Webster have performed a solemn obligation. They visit each of Webster’s five cemeteries — Holy Trinity, West Webster, Webster Union, Webster Rural and Union Hill — and place a flag beside each veteran’s gravestone.

It’s a simple act, designed to honor and remember our nation’s veterans on Memorial Day, whether they served in wartime or peacetime.

For the last several years, the effort has been coordinated by Charlie Klauck, who updates the burial lists and cemetery maps, rounds up volunteers and schedules the placement times. He likes to begin visiting the cemeteries two weeks before Memorial Day, allowing plenty of time for rescheduling in case of inclement weather. Over a period of five days, he and his volunteers visit every cemetery in succession, methodically working their way up and down the lines of gravestones, regularly pausing to place a flag.

And they have to pause a lot. This year, Charlie and his crew will place 2,230 flags, including more than 600 in Webster Union Cemetery alone, and more than 900 in Webster Rural.

You might think planting more than 2,200 individual flags would be a very slow and tedious process, but it’s clearly a labor of love, and the volunteers have it pretty much down to a science. One pushes the cart of flags, another reads the names off a list, a third locates each stone on a map, and the last one plants the flags. If enough volunteers show up, Charlie can even get two or three teams going at once.

That’s especially helpful in a cemetery like Webster Rural, which is so large that Charlie likes to get a head start. He explained,

Webster Rural takes hours. I schedule it for Wednesday night, but if we try to do it all Wednesday night, there’s no way we’d be able to. We’d be there until dark.  So I start up there (earlier) and do a lot of the smaller sections and the old sections and save a few of the big ones for Wednesday night.  

Two of the members are Scout leaders, so sometimes they bring along a contingent of Scouts for some extra hands.

“We encourage them to help out,” Charlie said, “because someday they may have to do it for us.”

By the end of this week, flags should be in place at Union Hill, Holy Trinity, West Webster and Webster Union cemeteries. Next Wednesday, the teams will head to Webster Rural Cemetery. If you notice that a veteran has been missed, call Charlie Klauck at 585-671-2302.

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(posted 5/19/2022)

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