MIDDLETOWN – “I think all veterans should have someone watching over them, so if there’s anything I can do to remember a veteran, I want to help out as best I can.”
That’s why Cadet Russell Karshmer of Highlands joined more than a dozen other cadets and many other volunteers to replace the faded, written American flags on veterans’ graves in Bayview Cemetery a week before Memorial Day.
Karshmer, a freshman at MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology in Sandy Hook, joined other MAST cadets, along with members of the Rumson Fair Haven High School Veterans Appreciation Club and student Henry Hudson members. of Leos, the Lions organization, to replace hundreds of veterans’ flags at the cemetery. The annual event is a longstanding tradition of the American Legion, Atlantic Highlands Post 141, and gives volunteers the opportunity to show special respect for veterans of all wars.
Post Commander Peter Doyle thanked the dozens of volunteers who spent several hours last Saturday morning, not only installing new flags on all the veterans’ graves, but also removing faded flags. A group of volunteers then separated the faded flags from the poles that had held Place I, and gathered the flags all together for Doyle to take to the Atlantic Highlands for a proper ceremony usually conducted by the scout troop local, to burn the flags with respect.
“It’s important to respect those who gave their lives for our country,” said cadet Jake Sjasword of Tinton Falls, a junior r at MAST, “it’s a way of saying thank you for the sacrifice they made to keep us the greatest nation there is.”
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Cadet Victoria Walker of Middletown is the senior supply officer at MAST and said this was her first time attending the Flag Planting Morning at Bayview Cemetery. “OI just wanted to help,” she said.
Cadet Isabella Colgan of Howell, a sophomore at MAST, also said she just wanted to help, but added, “I was really happy to do something because my grandfather was a veteran and” I also did it for him.
Many cadets spent more time at gravesites, reading about the names and wars in which veterans had served, seeing the awards they had earned, and seeing the deaths of family members. Some noticed parents who had lost children before their own deaths, or families who had more than one service member. “I’ve never walked through a graveyard before,” several of the cadets remarked, “there are hundreds of stories here.”
Before volunteers stock up on flags and work as a team, covering the entire cemetery to ensure all veterans are visited, Doyle explained the process of replacing flags, advising volunteers where to place flags at each grave and ensuring that replaced flags do not touch each other. the floor and be taken back to their meeting place for proper disposal.
William Boynton, Post Legion Chaplain, reminded the cadets that a Medal of Honor recipient is one of those buried at Bayview and led the group in prayers during the traditional ceremony, reminding them that they in Middletown were doing the same thing that the other volunteers at Arlington National Cemetery were also doing.
After all the flags were replaced, the post hosted an outdoor lunch for volunteers at the Atlantic Highlands Yacht Harbor.
MAST Cadets, in conjunction with Senior Naval Instructor CDR. Tracie Smith-Yeoman, USN (retired) also marches in the borough’s annual Memorial Day Parade scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday. The parade begins at the Municipal Yacht Harbor and runs along First Avenue to Veterans Park across from Borough Hall, where memorial services will be held for all of the borough’s deceased veterans.