GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan Veteran Homes – a branch of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs – planted more than 5,000 flags at gravesites with help from local scout troops and volunteers.
The flags were planted at the cemetery at the Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids at 3000 Monroe Ave. NE, according to a news release Friday.
Though family, residents, staff and community members have been placing flags individually in recent years, the volunteer effort to blanket the cemetery with flags began more than 30 years ago.
Bob Porter, a former financial management supervisor for the Home who helped formalize the effort in 1991, said it began with a promise of a soda.
“Al Hulsapple and Bill Gerber, who were members of the Home and volunteer scouts, would enlist the help of 10 to 20 scouts to plant flags in the cemetery,” said Porter, who himself was involved as a scout leader for Boy Scout Troop 230 in Grand Rapids. “It would take the scouts a few hours to blanket the cemetary and Al and Bill would toss them a soda at the end of the day and say, ‘Come back again next year.’”
Girl Scouts have also become involved in recent years.
“The Girl Scouts appreciate the opportunity to join the legacy flag-planting event at Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids,” said Krystan Krucki, director of marketing and communications for The Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore. “It really does help inspire girls of all ages to honor veterans, honor our troops and find their own way to recognize the sacrifices that have been made by these individuals for our country.”
Scouts are given instructions on how to properly honor the veterans buried at the cemetery.
The process starts with a scout placing a flag to the left of the headstone, followed by reciting the veteran’s name and rendering a salute.
Flags are delivered each year by the United Veterans Council of Kent County, with special care taken to replace any flags that are torn or tattered.
On average, about 3,500 worn or tattered flags are replaced every year.
While this year’s effort wasn’t the same as years past because of the ongoing pandemic, the Home hopes to return to celebrating the contributions by the scouts and local community in 2022.
“We’ve had anywhere from 500 to 800 scouts join us in the past,” said Tiffany Carr, director of relations for the Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids. “Even with restrictions and concerns related to COVID-19, all 5,000+ flags were planted by the afternoon on May 20 as planned to honor our fallen veterans.”
The cemetery is open for visitation this weekend and visitors can access it through the main entrance on Lamberton Street NE.