Veterans Cemetery - Photo courtesy of Robert Linder on Unsplash

The call went out Monday for volunteers to help place miniature American flags alongside nearly 225,000 graves at Riverside National Cemetery next month as part of a Veterans Day tribute.

“We are excited to get back out and place flags to honor those buried at the cemetery,” Brennan Leininger with Garden Grove-based Honoring Our Fallen said.

The flag walks are set to begin about 8 a.m. Nov. 5 at the cemetery Amphitheater, where volunteers are needed to retrieve bundles of flags with which to canvass all 70 sections of the hallowed grounds to plant the Stars & Stripes.

The endeavor is expected to last three to four hours.

Last year, the Veterans Administration initially denied “A Flag for Every Hero” based on ongoing crowd restrictions in federally regulated spaces to limit coronavirus exposure. However, cemetery administrators persuaded their bosses to compromise and grant an exception due to the importance of the holiday, Leininger said.

The Memorial Day flag walk in May went ahead as planned.

The walks were canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 public health lockdowns.

“Paying tribute to those buried at Riverside National Cemetery is truly an honor we should all take great pride in,” Leininger said.

It is an all-volunteer effort, and hundreds of people are needed to complete the mission, he said.

Flag retrievals are set for the morning of Saturday, Nov. 12.

The walks were first organized in 2012 and typically involve a variety of organizations, including the Boy Scouts, police Explorers, Civil Air Patrol cadets and even union workers and their relatives.

When they first started, volunteers were able to reach only 21,000 grave sites. In 2014, organizers were able to procure enough flags and enlist a sufficient number of people to plant the Stars & 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 significantly, according to Leininger.

The honorably discharged U.S. Air Force serviceman and 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 the nonprofit Honoring Our Fallen.

Eventually, Leininger’s group joined with Riverside resident Mary Ellen Gruendyke to ensure all graves receive a flag. Gruendyke had contributed money and time to the effort long before 2012.

The 1,000-acre national cemetery is the third-largest of its kind in the nation.

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