With just over a week left before Memorial Day ceremonies, community members have taken it upon themselves to solve keep American flags flying over veterans’ graves at Alpine Cemetery.
The hard,-packed earth found here in the arid climate of East County prevents the flags from being pushed far enough into the ground for them to stand up against the wind.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #9578 Quartermaster Carl Silva said he typically enlists the help of volunteers to hand-drill the ground at veteran plots annually, just prior to Memorial Day so that the graves can be adorned with the flag for the holiday.
However, Silva said it is a makeshift solution which has needed addressing for years.
In answer to that call, community volunteer William Brownrigg has committed himself to installing permanent flag holders at every grave prior to Memorial Day this year.
Brownrigg could be seen going through the cemetery on Monday morning to confirm that no veteran was overlooked. As he kneeled at each grave, Brownrigg wiped off individual headstones and gently tapped a flag holder at the head of each plot.
Brownrigg estimates that it takes about an hour to install flag holders for every 10 graves but said that he has been moving quickly to ensure that they are all in place for Memorial Day.
According to Bob Duck, manager of Alpine Cemetery, there are more than 450 veterans who lay in eternal rest at the site;
Brownrigg and Silva have many days of work invested on this community project. Still, Brownrigg insists that the number of hours spent on the project is immaterial to him because he is invested in seeing the project through to completion.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to serve but I think it is important to honor those who did,” Brownrigg said.
He is also quick to point out that the weary and faded flags piled high in a container at the cemetery are slated for transport up to the VFW post for proper and final retirement through cremation or burial.
Duck explained that the cemetery dates back to the 1800s and is currently governed by a Board of Directors but does not have a solitary owner.