A Memorial Day weekend ceremony that involves placing miniature American flags at every grave on the grounds of Riverside National Cemetery will be held Saturday, with hundreds of volunteers on hand.
The “Flag for Every Hero” event is slated to run from 8 a.m. to noon.
The flag walks, first organized in 2012, are conducted not only ahead of Memorial Day, but also on Veterans Day. However, both were nixed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 public health lockdowns.
“Memorial Day is the day we honor our fallen heroes,” according to a statement from Cypress-based Honoring Our Fallen, a nonprofit that helps coordinate the events. “We use this opportunity to provide youth groups with volunteer community service opportunities and bring the community together to remember those who have defended this great nation of ours.”
Chief organizer Brennan Leininger said a number of organizations are slated to take part in Saturday’s undertaking, including the Boy Scouts, police Explorers, Civil Air Patrol and other interested parties.
Added to the mix this year will be about 100 members of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, Locals 909 and 951, as well as some of their relatives.
When the walks 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 the Stars and Stripes 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 three to four hours, according to Leininger.
The honorably discharged U.S. Air Force serviceman, 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 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 third-largest of its kind in the nation — and running out of space.
In addition to the placement effort, there is also a flag retrieval that will take place on Tuesday.
Information about the walks, how to volunteer and where to make donations is available at www.honoringourfallen.org .
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