John Pederson lifts a flag in the air while himself and other maintenance crew set up flags for Memorial Day at Floral Hills Cemetery on Friday, May 24, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

John Pederson lifts a flag in the air while himself and other maintenance crew set up flags for Memorial Day at Floral Hills Cemetery on Friday, May 24, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Volunteers place thousands of flags by veterans’ graves in Lynnwood

Ahead of Memorial Day, local veterans ensure fellow military service members are never forgotten.

LYNNWOOD — Graziella Perry has volunteered to stake flags at veterans’ graves during Memorial Day weekend for over 20 years.

The annual tradition holds more meaning this year. Her husband, Carl Steven Perry, was a veteran. He died in February and will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery this fall.

On Saturday morning, she and other volunteers scanned the graves at Purdy & Walters at Floral Hills Cemetery in search of those with military affiliation. Outfitted with a white poncho, Perry’s arms overflowed with small American flags under the overcast and drizzly sky.

“War doesn’t stop when it rains,” she said. “We should be out here.”

Families, scout troops and veterans dispersed throughout Floral Hills ahead of Memorial Day to place thousands of flags at veterans’ graves.

Before spreading out, volunteers gathered for an opening flag ceremony led by seven members of a local American Heritage Girls troop. The members presented and saluted the American and Washington state flags.

Troop leaders Bridget Simmons and Elizabeth Devine said the event allows young members to meet veterans.

“They learn to appreciate the people who have served our country,” Simmons said.

Members of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 423 have recognized Memorial Day at Floral Hills for 30 years.

Hundreds of veterans buried at Floral Hills don’t have a veteran designation on their graves, said Steve Pennington, a Chapter 423 member and U.S. Air Force veteran. Every year, Pennington meets people who hope to have their loved ones acknowledged during Memorial Day weekend.

Chapter 423 members have a database now of at least 400 veterans buried at Floral Hills whose graves don’t list their veteran status. And members make sure to put flags on their graves, Pennington said.

Ahead of the holiday, Pennington thinks of a saying that has many variations, but ultimately says: “You never truly die until no one remembers your name.”

“As long as we are able to,” Pennington said of himself and his fellow Vietnam veterans, “we’re going to do this.”

On Memorial Day, Chapter 423 members and staff at Floral Hills will host a service at 10:30 a.m near the cemetery’s veterans’ memorial. The Eagles and Letter Carriers Band will perform at the start of the service, followed by a speech from retired Navy veteran, Shawn Baza.

Ta’Leah Van Sistine: 425-339-3460; taleah.vansistine@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @TaLeahRoseV.

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