Spending the day at the lake with family and friends, while enjoying some barbecue chicken, chips and potato salad, is a staple for most people on Memorial Day, but August Flach, a Vietnam War veteran, wants others to remember the true meaning.
“The name of the day says it all, it is Memorial Day,” said Flach, the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Clovis. “It is time to memorialize these heroes that have fallen either in campaigns or by a natural cause when they got home.”
One of the ways Flach and other war veterans remember their comrades-in-arms is by visiting their graves and holding a ceremony at Academy Cemetery, one of the three cemeteries that make up the Clovis Cemetery District.
This year Flach’s group will also hold a ceremony at Red Bank Cemetery to honor the veterans buried there.
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“Different groups take care of the different cemeteries, but the organization that was taking care of Red Bank is no longer able to do it,” Flach said. “So this year we are just going to go ahead and take it over.”
The annual event takes place Saturday, May 23. Flach and about 40 to 50 others, including Cub Scouts, friends and family of deceased soldiers and members of the VFW, put U.S. flags at all of the veteran’s graves. They leave the flags there until the evening of Memorial Day.
For Flach, the most help comes from the Cub Scouts who help with putting flags on every grave.
“This will be their third year that they have joined us up at the Academy Cemetery and they’ve got all the energy that we are lacking,” Flach said. “We will carry the flags and they are running up and down the hills like it’s nothing so it is a lot of fun watching them, they are a tremendous asset.”
In the ceremony, Flach makes the initial introductions and the officer of the day talks about the history of the cemetery. After that, everyone salutes the flag and remains standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Before everyone leaves, Flach, with the help of others, raise the flag all the way up to the top and bring it down to half-staff and leave it that way until the end of Memorial Day.
The event starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at about 10 a.m. Once the ceremony is finished at Academy, the group heads directly to Red Bank and does the same thing there.
Even though the main purpose of the event is to remember the veterans and their families for sacrificing their lives for the service of our country, Flach also wants to raise awareness of the burial benefits of which veterans are entitled.
“As a veteran you have burial benefits where it will help the family with the cost of the burial,” Flach said. “If the veteran served in a combat area he is able to get the headstone provided. They will also provide the burial flag that drapes the coffin and a color guard. All of this is at no cost to the family.”
On the actual holiday, Flach and others attend a celebration at Sierra Villa Assisted Living in Clovis.
“One of our members of the post lives there and there are 13 more veterans being taken care of in that facility,” Flach said. “We partner with them as a part of our community service program and we do our Memorial Day celebration there.”
Max Donaldson, a Vietnam War veteran, lives in the facility and enjoys the Memorial Day celebration as he feels it is paying respects to those who sacrificed their lives.
“I take part in it because it is good, it is very good,” Donaldson said. “Too many men died in the war and it is great to celebrate their life.”
Jim Anderson, who also served in the Vietnam War, has participated in the ceremony with Flach for the past eight years and believes it is beneficial for him as he finds it to be therapeutic.
“It is something that I really enjoy,” Anderson said. “It pays respect for the veterans and it is just a way for us to respect ourselves also for doing it.”
To conclude the day, Flach and his group go to the Clovis Cemetery where other veterans are buried. Flach said there is nothing else he would rather do than to help other veterans and their loved ones.
“When you do something to help a veteran or a veteran’s family you just really get a good feeling that you have done something good today,” Flach said. “We have the opportunity to pay tribute to them and at the same time show respect to the flag and what that represents as well.”