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Volunteers needed to mark graves of veterans

The Spectator - 9/13/2017

SOMERSET - The effort to place memorial wreaths on the graves of about 3,000 veterans in town is a very organized one and Kathleen Gunning is looking for about 100 volunteers who can help with placing markers on the graves of veterans in two cemeteries on Sept. 30.

Gunning said the cemeteries will be marked off in sections and then people will be asked to put small orange flags next to military markers, gravestones or medallions of veterans. The two cemeteries where volunteers will put the markers will be Nathan Slade Cemetery and St. Patrick's Cemetery.

"I think it's important for people to understand how many people have served for our freedom and I think this would be a good way for them to learn," Gunning said.

On Sept. 30, Gunning will be in the parking lot of the James L. and John E. Lynch Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8500 on Washington Avenue where she will be directing people to cemeteries. There will also be leaders at the cemeteries. Gunning said people can just show up at the parking lot at 9 a.m. that day or they can email a message to her at

Gunning and U.S. Air Force veteran George Andes have already put markers on the graves of all veterans in the Palmer Cemetery and the Gibbs Cemetery. With all of the turmoil in the world today, Andes said now is more important than ever to honor the nation's veterans.

"These people fought and died in service just to support what we have today," Andes said.

Gunning said when the wreaths are brought to the cemeteries in December, they will either be leaned against grave stones or will be put on top of military marker

Andes said he is praying there will not be snow in December, or if there is, that it is not a lot so that the wreaths will still be visible.

Gunning quoted the late President Ronald Reagan who said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the blood stream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on from them to do the same."

Gunning said she has put the word out about needing volunteers to help mark the veterans' graves at the cemeteries. She said she hopes Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and high school students who need to fulfill community service requirements will help out.

After the flags have been put in the cemeteries, Gunning said she and Andes will come back and take them out so that Andes can make a grid on an excel spreadsheet identifying where each grave is for the future. She said the orange flags will be put back in the cemeteries in December. Gunning said putting the flags next to the graves to mark them and making the grid will make it a lot easier to place wreaths on all of the graves on Dec. 16 which is National Wreaths Across America Day when similar efforts will be made in other towns in the United States. She said the wreaths will be placed where volunteers see orange flags.

Gunning said veterans, the general public and businesses have been generous with their donations for the wreaths. The wreaths cost $15 each. To donate a wreath or wreaths to the Somerset project, people can go to the website page=42568&relate=42530. As of last week, Gunning said she had enough donations for 2,117 wreaths.

"I am absolutely going to get the 3,000 after our next fundraiser," Gunning said. "I'm going to start begging."


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