RIVERSIDE (CNS) - Hundreds of volunteers are slated to canvass Riverside National Cemetery today for a mission to ensure that every grave has an American flag placed next to it for Veterans Day.
Cypress-based Honoring Our Fallen has conducted flag-placing events at the cemetery since 2012, relying on the support of people of all ages, who donate their time to anchor a miniature flag adjacent to all of the 250,000-plus graves.
Event coordinator Brennan Leininger said that between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., volunteers will walk the hallowed grounds, which lie just west of the March Air Reserve Base, on the south end of Riverside. Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, police Explorers, fire department Explorers, ROTC squads, families and relatives of those buried at the cemetery generally join the effort.
“Paying tribute to those buried at Riverside National Cemetery is truly an honor we should all take great pride in,” Leininger said. “Accomplishing this massive feat takes a lot of participation by so many people doing many different things. Everyone's involvement is critical to the success of achieving this task. The emotional experience that results from participating in this event and seeing all the flags blowing in the wind is what it is all about.”
The Anaheim police officer, who served in the U.S. Air Force, was inspired to organize the flag walks after a visit to the cemetery on Veterans Day 2011, when he noticed that most of the burial sites had no flags flying.
When the flag walks began on Memorial Day weekend 2012, volunteers were able to reach only 21,000 burial plots. But thanks to private and public contributions, enough flags were purchased in 2014 to mark the final resting places of all the men and women interred at the site, which is the largest federal cemetery in the western U.S.
Leininger noted that Riverside resident Mary Ellen Gruendyke, whose husband is buried at the cemetery, had initiated a flag-placing campaign years before and had been able to reach thousands of plots -- but never anywhere close to all of them.
The flag retrieval will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 12, beginning at 7 a.m., according to Leininger. He said it's always a challenge recruiting a sufficient number of volunteers to pick up the Stars & Stripes. Anyone interested in helping was asked to contact him at brennandslextreme.com .
More information about the walks and where to make donations for flags is available at www.honoringourfallen.org .