WHIDBEY ISLAND — More than 500 small American flags stood throughout the grounds at Maple Leaf Cemetery on Nov. 3. More adorn the graves of veterans at Sunnyside and Bayview cemeteries in Central and South Whidbey.
Volunteers braved heavy rain to honor fallen military service members eight days before the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
The gesture is sponsored by the Oak Harbor Military Officers Association of America, and two dozen volunteers from NJROTC helped carry it out.
This is the sixth year MOAA has placed the flags for Veterans Day.
The event included a prayer led by Navy League Chaplain David Lura, an explanation of what was happening by MOAA member David Cohick and a performance of taps by Oak Harbor High School band teacher Brandon Nelson.
Many attendees had fallen military members in their families.
“I have a personal connection to this cemetery,” said James Hart, an Oak Harbor High School sophomore and member of NJROTC. “My grandfather is buried here.”
“I wanted to pay my respects again, and honor all the veterans here.”
Each flag, which Cohick hailed as a “beacon of freedom,” will fly for two weeks.
Andrea Kunze walked solemnly through the rows of headstones with her two daughters, both of whom are in NJROTC.
“It’s a special thing to do,” she said. “I just appreciate what they gave.”
Ed Hickey, a veteran and MOAA member, was one of the first volunteers to begin planting the stars and stripes Nov. 3. He’s participated every year.
“It’s just something I feel I have to do,” Hickey said. “… Lots of my friends are buried here.”