A Memorial Day weekend ceremony where miniature American flags will be placed at every grave at Riverside National Cemetery will return after a suspension last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was announced Wednesday.
The “Flag for Every Hero” event is slated for May 29, and is expected to involve several hundred volunteers.
The flag placements, first organized in 2012, are conducted not only on Memorial Day weekend, but also on Veterans Day. However, both were canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 public health lockdowns.
The guidelines and parameters for the placement ceremony next month are being ironed out, according to chief organizer Brennan Leininger. Additional details will be announced several weeks in advance of the May 29 event, Leininger said.
In previous years, Boy Scouts, police Explorers, Civil Air Patrol cadets and other interested parties have participated in the events. As many as 200 to 300 people volunteer.
When the flag placements began in 2012, volunteers were able to reach only 21,000 of the more than 200,000 grave sites. In 2014, organizers were able to procure enough flags and enlist a sufficient number of people to plant a flag next to just about all of the final resting places of individuals interred at the cemetery.
Since then, the number of volunteers has grown, and the flags are placed at every grave within about three hours, according to Leininger.
The honorably discharged U.S. Air Force veteran, who is now an Anaheim police officer, visited the cemetery in 2011 and was dismayed by how few flags were flying, prompting him to start the placements, with the help of Cypress-based Honoring Our Fallen.
Eventually, Leininger’s group joined with Riverside resident Mary Ellen Gruendyke, now in her late-70s, to ensure all graves receive a flag. Gruendyke had contributed money and time to the effort long before 2012.
The 900-acre national cemetery is the fourth-largest in the nation — and running out of space.
Information about the flag placements, how to volunteer and where to make donations is available at www.honoringourfallen.org.