Back about 20 years ago, my friend Sally Sarlitto was taking an evening walk in Glenwood Cemetery about this time of year. There was a man flagging graves with American flags. She asked what he was doing and he explained that members of the American Legion Post 15 East Greenwich honored fallen veterans each year by replacing the worn flags on the graves with new flags in the cemeteries of East Greenwich for Memorial Day. He was alone, the task took a lot of time and effort, and through conversation, Sally offered to find a way to help with the flagging of 1,200-plus graves.
Sally asked me if the Boy Scouts of Troop 2 East Greenwich – my sons were members of the troop – would be interested in a community service project. The Troop already flagged the Veterans Cemetery in Exeter each Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Not being member of the Legion, nor veterans, but knowing the significance, my husband and I took on the responsibility of ordering and picking up the flags each year, as well as finding volunteers to help remove and replace the flags.
There have been many volunteers over the years to help with this important task. Sally and Dave Sarlitto have flagged Glenwood Cemetery, the Swedish Cemetery on Division Street and the historic cemetery on Cedar Avenue for the past 20 years. With the Scouts from Troop 2, past and present, my husband Chris and I have flagged East Greenwich Cemetery, St. Patrick’s Cemetery, and all the small, historic cemeteries in town. Graves are of those who served in the War of the Revolution, War of 1812, the Civil War, World Wars 1 & 2, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, Iraq and Afghanistan. We are grateful to Kyle Kenyon and Kaelan Coates who have compiled a database requested by the Office of Veteran Affairs. Thanks goes out to Jim Bessell, administrator of the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery in Exeter for his guidance.
This year, thanks to Mark Newton, Andy, Jen and Aubri Martone, Dave and Sally Sarlitto, and the groundskeepers of East Greenwich and St. Patrick’s Cemeteries. Thank you to those who clean up and maintain these eternal places of rest. And most of all, thank you to the men and women who have served our country. This is the least we can do to honor them.
Claudia M Smith lives in East Greenwich.