‘We’re going out no matter what:’ Volunteers place flags at veteran burial sites in Grand Rapids

Posted at 10:32 PM, May 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-21 22:32:52-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A week out from Memorial Day, several organizations in Kent County are making sure to remember as many veterans as they can.

It was cold and raining, but that didn't stop a group of volunteers from doing their part at a local cemetery. Volunteers with the Patriot Guard Riders, Blue Star Mothers, and Gold Star Families were out at the Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in Grand Rapids, placing flags at the burial site of every veteran.

Muddy footsteps were the only sound heard at the cemetery on Monday, but the stories of the men and women buried there speak volumes.

"There's thousands of veterans out here," said Dani Jennings. "It means a lot to me to honor the veterans."

Jennings is a ride captain with the Patriot Guard Riders, and she has been placing flags on graves for almost a decade at this cemetery. She says many people don't know there are thousands of veterans laid to rest there.

"We think they need the recognition just as much as anybody else," said Jennings. "That's why we come out here. It's little known that we have so many veterans here."

In the rain and cold, each volunteer stopped to place a flag at the site of each veteran, also reading their names and remembering their sacrifice.

"Did these veterans quit?" asked Jennings. "Did they have a choice during war to quit because it was raining or snowing? We're going to put flags out. We're going out no matter what. They did it for us so we can take time to do it for them."

Jennings is the sister of two Army veterans and the mother of a Marine. She says she's thankful to not be placing a flag for any of her loved ones, but she knows there are many people who are.

"To me, it means that I can honor and respect their decision, their sacrifice and what they've given me and the abilities that I can do now and the freedoms that we have," said Jennings. "Just as small as a flag on their grave site or a shake on the hand when I see them at the store, whatever I can do to maybe give them an uplifting day and thank them for what they've done for me and how important they are."

The volunteers will to go out Monday morning to do one final sweep to make sure there's a flag at the grave of every veteran. A Memorial Day ceremony will be at the Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens at noon on Monday, Memorial Day, and all are welcome to attend and pay respects.