Volunteers step up to help veterans with cemetery flags for Memorial Day

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]
Spagnola -

More than 25 individuals and groups have answered the Luzerne County Veteran Affairs Department’s recent call for help placing flags on graves for Memorial Day.

“We had a great response,” county Veteran Affairs Director James Spagnola said Wednesday. “This is very good.”

The offers to assist included several area school organizations and athletic teams, which brings the potential volunteer tally to hundreds, he said.

While the county purchases the more than 85,000 flags as required by state law, their placement on graves falls entirely on volunteers.

The 60-plus veteran services posts that have been handling the cemetery decorating are increasingly reliant on non-veteran help due to aging and declining membership.

Spagnola issued a plea to avoid last-minute calls about missed cemeteries and to start planning for the future so the tradition stays alive.

Scouts, school groups and other organizations already were assisting, but some veteran service entities did not have access to volunteers, Spagnola said.

Offers of assistance started rolling in Monday after the Times Leader featured a story about the volunteers’ plight Sunday.

Spagnola’s office is now compiling a list of volunteers and the areas they are willing to cover. This list will be provided to veteran service organization representatives when they pick up their flags from his office next week.

Organizations have varying decorating schedules as Memorial Day nears.

Spagnola said his office also will coordinate volunteers if it is alerted to a cemetery that is no longer decorated by a veterans group.

The flags are inserted in holders also provided by the county to show respect for everyone who served, wartime or not, from the time of the Revolutionary War to the present day.

Other citizens or groups interested in helping should call their local veteran service organization or contact veteran affairs at 570-706-3960.

Spagnola is optimistic struggling veteran organizations will forge continuing partnerships with the additional volunteers in coming years.

“Hopefully, they will develop new relationships,” he said.


By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.