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Volunteers mark veterans’ graves with American flags for Memorial Day

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The grave of World War II and Korean War veteran Broadus J. Vinson was adorned with plastic orchids.

It needed something to distinguish it from the hundreds of other graves at the Bellevue Memorial Gardens.

Some of the 1,800 flags volunteers planted to mark the graves of military veterans buried at the Bellevue Memorial Gardens in Grovetown. Staff photo by Joshua B. Good.

As they advanced through the Grovetown cemetery Saturday, Antonio Amador and his mother Genevieve Amador stopped first at Vinson’s grave. Both were part of a group of 30 or so volunteers who carried American flags meant to mark 1,800 graves of military veterans at the cemetery in honor of Memorial Day.

Vinson’s resting place was extra special for the Amadors.

Genevieve had helped care for Vinson in the last days of his life. She works in hospice care and remembers Vinson’s stories and lively spirit, even as his life slipped away.

“We had the honor of serving this gentleman. And so he was a really great man and his family misses him all the time,” Gevevieve said. “He would tell his stories of his time in the military and his time in service. Very proud man, very honored to have him serve our country.”

Antonio wore the uniform of his scout group, Trail Life Georgia 2215, assigned to the Evans Christ Church Presbyterian.

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“I’m doing this to honor our veterans,” Antonio said. “One of the first lines of our motto is to do our duty to God and our country. And this is kind of like doing our duty to God and our country.”

Saturday was the 12th year William Nicholas has led volunteers to mark the graves of military veterans at the Bellevue Memorial Gardens in Grovetown. Staff photo by Joshua B. Good.

The flag placement was organized by William Nicholas, a 79-year-old Navy veteran and member of American Legion Post 192 in Evans. 

“This is my 12th year doing this,” Nicholas said. “We try to get as many people as we can and we try to put an American flag on every single grave of every veteran who is out here…they paid the ultimate sacrifice for us to be free, so it’s our chance to come back and honor them by remembering them and putting a flag out there.”

Gary Lewis carried 50 flags, the red, white and blue in bright contrast to his black POW-MIA T-shirt.

“We do this in memory of those we lost in different wars and I think it’s important to acknowledge that we’re here for them,” Lewis said.

American Legion member Gary Lewis carried 50 American flags and planted them at the headstones of veterans buried at Bellevue Memorial Gardens in Grovetown. Staff photo by Joshua B. Good.

The volunteers were scouts, veterans and family members of those who had died. Most worked in teams. 

Tony Tran, a soldier who works on Fort Gordon, worked alone at a steady pace though the cemetery, drilling holes with an electric drill with a long drill bit, planting the flags and straightening out the cloth.

“This is a way of giving back to the community and getting out there and being around other veterans,” Tran said.

On Sunday, veterans will have a motorcycle ride to honor fellow veterans at the two Augusta Veterans Administration hospitals. The ride starts at noon at the American Legion Post at 1219 Richmond Hill Road. The “Ride 2 Remember” procession is scheduled to move from that location to the downtown Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center at 950 15th Street, then to the uptown Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center at 1 Freedom Way, then return to the American Legion Post.

Joshua B. Good is a staff reporter covering Columbia County and military/veterans’ issues for The Augusta Press. Reach him at [email protected] 

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