Cemetery's Memorial Day service honors those who served with hundreds of flags
'Every flag here has a story'
Linda Strine and her mother, Virginia Strine, pray at the gravesite of Virginia's brother, Howard Messerschmitt, who served in World War II. The two were at Rest Haven Cemetary on Monday. (By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer / May 28, 2012)
More than 100 people attended Rest Haven’s annual Memorial Day tribute, and many more spent the afternoon walking around the grounds searching for their loved ones’ flags in the cemetery north of Hagerstown.
To date, families have given about 400 flags — each with a name of a late veteran embroidered on it — to the cemetery to display at each Memorial Day service, said Jeremy Osteen, family service supervisor and speaker at Monday’s tribute.
Each flag was given to the family of a veteran at their military funeral service, Osteen said.
“Every year, people bring us flags,” he said. “They told us to hold onto these for forever. And every year we put them out. We have to remember that every one of those flags is a person. It represents a lifetime of not only service to the country, but families.”
The tribute service started about 11 a.m. with the playing of bagpipes by Richard Conrad, a welcome message from Osteen and an invocation delivered by the Rev. Don Stevenson.
Osteen then gave his address, reading a Memorial Day-themed excerpt by author Meredith Jacobs, who once interviewed her great-uncle Joe for a grade-school assignment. Jacobs remembered little from the interview, Osteen said, except for when she asked what his favorite holiday was, to which he answered Memorial Day.
“It is the ultimate sacrifice made by our country’s young men and women,” Osteen read. “And the ultimate sacrifice made by their families. My peace of mind and the safety of my children is possible because of the men and women in our armed forces.
“How does ‘thank you’ even begin to scratch the surface?” he asked, continuing to quote Jacobs. “But ‘thank you’ is what I want to say.”
Several trumpeters performed echo taps before the Appalachian Wind Quintet played various patriotic selections for the crowd to round out the service.
Meanwhile, numerous people took the opportunity to meander through the cemetery to find the flags of their relatives buried at Rest Haven.
Stacy Elwood of Clear Spring was walking with her daughter, Hadley, 3, as they checked several flags. Elwood said she was looking for the flag of her grandfather, Wilfred Paris, who is buried next to her grandmother.
“I thought it was important to bring my daughter to make her aware,” she said.
A short distance away, Barbara Miller of Falling Waters, W.Va., was with her husband, John, and mother, Jean Cook of Halfway. The trio was laying flowers on the grave of Miller’s father, John Nevin Cook, who died two years ago.
John Cook was an Army infantryman who fought during World War I, Jean Cook said.
Barbara Miller noticed something on her father’s gravestone that she hadn’t noticed before Monday — a bronze star.
“Dad never bragged about it,” she said. “He just never told us about it.”
Osteen said it’s important to remember the country’s veterans because “the peak of our greatest generation is gone and there’s not many of them left.”
“Every flag here has a story,” he said. “It’s good just to remember them ... they’re not forgotten. It’s a good day of reflection.”