DECATUR — Old Glory is on full display this weekend to anyone driving by or through Graceland Cemetery in Decatur.
Nearly 125 American flags were erected Saturday morning near the Korean War Memorial in advance of the Avenue of Flags Memorial Ceremony. The 6th annual event was held in honor of those who served in the military.
Nancy Rostek has attended all of the ceremonies but one. She said the number of flags has grown throughout the years. “I was one of the first ones, and there were just a few flags,” she said.
Rostek purchased a flag for her husband, Jerry, who served in the Korean War. He passed away in 1998. Rostek also has purchased other memorials for family members, including remembrance bricks that are part of the World War II Memorial near the Decatur Civic Center.
“I am very sentimental for the country,” she said.
The flags that are part of the Avenue of Flags event can be purchased to honor a veteran from any war -- living or dead.
Pat McDaniel is a regular attendee of the Avenue of Flags Memorial Ceremony and decided to purchase a flag two years ago. “To honor myself,” he said. “Because I don’t have much family.”
The flags have dog tags attached to each in honor of the veteran. They will stay in position around the cemetery until after Memorial Day.
The ceremony opened with patriotic observances, including a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. David Goebel, a funeral director for Moran & Goebel, then read the names of all veterans whose names are attached to a flag. The flags are standing alphabetically in the year in which they were donated.
The flags are 9-and-half feet wide and 5-feet tall.
“They are standard burial flags,” Goebel said. “The idea was for the family to donate the burial flag in honor of their veteran.”
The ceremony ended with a three-volley salute, the playing of “Taps” and a benediction.
Charles Loury, commander of the Macon County Honor Guard, led the seven-member firing squad and one bugler during the ceremony. The guard is made up of veterans from the Vietnam War, Korean War and one from World War II. “He was the one blowing the bugle,” Loury said.
The Honor Guard attends many funerals and ceremonies, such as the Avenue of Flags Memorial, because they understand the importance for the families and the veteran.
“We all served in various branches of the service,” Loury said. “The services need to be done. It’s a shame that we have to wait until Memorial Day.”
The Macon County Honor Guard will be serving at two other ceremonies on Memorial Day; the Memorial Day Commemoration at 10 a.m. in the Fairview Park Pavilion and the Memorial Day Ceremony at 11:30 a.m. near the Korean War Memorial at Graceland Cemetery.
According to Loury, the Macon County Honor Guard has served at 55 funerals so far this year. They attended nearly 140 last year.
“To get 18 guys to come out and do a funeral, that’s saying something about the quality of guys we do have,” Loury said. “And it is a volunteer organization.”
To add a lighter touch to the day, Boy Scout troop 91 served hot dogs, chips and beverages to visitors in the cemetery. “Graceland/Fairlawn and Moran & Goebel provide it for free during the holiday,” said Bruce Logan, a Graceland/Fairlawn employee. “We support our troops and our Boy Scout troops as well.”
The Boy Scouts will continue serving refreshments at the cemetery from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today and Monday.
“I enjoy serving and helping others,” said 13-year-old Life Scout Corran Nelson.
“It’s great to be able to serve the people,” said Seth Barr, 14.