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Published on: Monday, July 8, 2024 read more ...

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Veterans Help Place Flags at Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery

By Kevin M. Hymel on 5/24/2024

Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) got some extra help placing flags at the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 2024, when a handful of veterans from the adjacent Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home showed up to assist.

The soldiers were placing flags in preparation for Memorial Day weekend. Eight veterans from the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home entered the cemetery to lend a hand. After a quick tutorial from Army Master Sgt. Lisa Moore on how to properly place flags, the veterans went to work.

Hilary Rosado, who served in the Army from 1978 to 1999, became emotional as she placed her flags. “These are the people who paved the way,” she said. “They were the ones who fought alongside my dad.” During World War II, her father served as a forward observer in the 90th Infantry Division, which assaulted Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Rosado herself joined the Army in London and served in Germany, Korea, Panama and England.

Tim Brundle, who served 28 years in the U.S. Navy, with two tours in Iraq and a year on independent duty with the U.S. Marines, placed flags to honor the service members who came before him. “They made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives,” he said.

Kyong Sun Stark, the spouse of a soldier, placed flags “for the memory of the people who died in war.” She stopped for a minute, looked across the fields of headstones and added, “this cemetery just touches my heart.”

Some of the veterans could not physically place flags but wanted to be a part of the event, nonetheless. Christine Engle, who served as an Army nurse from 1968 to 1988, wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke about the people she knew who are buried in the cemetery. “They served in Korea and Vietnam; I knew them and I’ve heard their stories,” she said. “I just want to pay reverence to all of them.”

Army veteran George Wellman, who initially served from 1966 to 1968 and returned to the Army in 1973 and served for 20 more years, wanted to place flags at two specific headstones. Pointing to one of the headstones, he said, “See that flag that I put? That’s for the last man to be buried here, David Pauling, a Marine who died in 2021.” Only veterans living in the Home are now eligible to be buried at the cemetery. Wellman pointed to another headstone and explained that at the Home, he had met his friend Gwendolyn Henderly, a retired Army nurse who passed away in 2017. “We did practically everything together,” he recalled. “I come here frequently to see her, and that’s why I’m here today.”

As the veterans roamed the cemetery, placing flags alongside the Old Guard soldiers, Honor Guard Company Commander Capt. Sean Conaway appreciated the extra help. “It’s an honor, and I couldn’t do it without my whole team,” he said. Conaway, whose mother lived in D.C., came to the cemetery as a child, long before joining the Army. “It’s personal for me,” he added, “but it’s even better to share it with my brothers and sisters in arms.”