250,000 American flags to be placed at graves of servicemen and women at Riverside National Cemetery

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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CNS) -- Volunteers will deploy throughout Riverside National Cemetery Saturday to erect miniature American flags alongside roughly 250,000 graves in a Memorial Day weekend salute to the nation's servicemen and women.

The "Flag for Every Hero" event is slated for 8 a.m. to noon, beginning with a brief ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Amphitheater in the middle of the cemetery.

"Accomplishing this large feat takes a lot of participation by many people, doing many different things," Brennan Leininger with nonprofit Honoring Our Fallen said. "Everyone's involvement is critical to the success of accomplishing this task. The emotional experience that results from participating in this event is what it is all about."

The walks, first organized in 2012, are conducted not only on Memorial Day weekend, but also on Veterans Day. Both were nixed in 2020 because of the COVID lockdowns but returned in 2021 with some restrictions, all of which have since been nullified.

Boy Scouts, police Explorers, Civil Air Patrol cadets, unions and other interested parties from throughout the Inland Empire take part in the walks, which have drawn upwards of 1,500 volunteers in the past.

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When the events began in 2012, participants 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 and Stripes next to just about all of the final resting places of individuals interred at the cemetery.

Since then, flags have been erected at every grave within about three hours, according to Leininger.

The honorably discharged U.S. Air Force serviceman, now a 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 Garden Grove- based Honoring Our Fallen.

Eventually, Leininger's group combined 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 900-acre national cemetery is the fourth-largest of its kind in the nation -- and running out of space.

The flags are slated to be retrieved on Tuesday, and volunteers are needed for that effort. Additional information is available at honoringourfallen.org.