A new local organization is coordinating efforts to make sure that veterans at several local cemeteries will be honored on Memorial Day this year.
The Sons of The American Legion (SAL) Squadron 82, along with The American Legion Post 82 and Auxiliary members, are planning to place US flags on the graves of veterans buried at Sunset, Webb Memorial and East Side cemeteries in Shelby. In order to accomplish this task, the groups have been busy over the past few weeks mapping and identifying the graves of the veterans in those cemeteries.
"We decided earlier in 2020 to take on this project, and we decided to keep going even with the quarantine - it's actually a good project to do right now because it involves being outside and the volunteers can practice social distancing while they work," says project organizer and SAL Squadron Commander Jack Weller.
Weller estimates the group will recognize and place flags on more than 1,150 veterans' graves.
"We started with sectional maps of each cemetery, and then we walked through each one and marked on our maps where each veteran was buried," says Weller. "We tried to locate every veteran from the Revolutionary War through the war on terror."
Weller says the volunteers in the Legion group were asked to respect the 6-foot social distancing rule during the mapping process.
"It worked out quite well," he says. "Everyone was able to do their work and still stay safe. We were also very lucky to have such great weather during our excursion."
Now that the cemeteries have been mapped, the groups will make plans to place the flags on the graves sometime around Memorial Day.
In addition to the three cemeteries covered by the Legion groups, Cleveland Memorial Cemetery will place 600 flags along the cemetery roadway to honor veterans. Those flags will be available for families to place on the grave of a loved one.
"The Cleveland County Veterans Administration does a program at Cleveland Memorial on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend," says Weller. "Our current plans are to meet at Sunset and Webb Memorial -- starting at about 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 21, 2020, for a brief ceremony at each cemetery, and then to place the flags on the graves we identified during the mapping."
Founded in 1932, the national organization of SAL was established to honor the service and sacrifice of Legionnaires. SAL members include males of all ages whose parents or grandparents served
in the US military and were eligible for American Legion membership. Members of The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of The American Legion comprise the Legion Family, which has a combined membership of nearly three million.
The local SAL group, which is associated with Post 82 in Shelby, was organized in the fall of 2019. The organization currently has 32 members.
"We have one member, Cy Cook, who is the 10-year-old grandson of a Legion member, and he volunteered to be Sargeant at Arms, just like his granddad is or the Legion Post," says Weller. "We are continuing to meet by Zoom and via conference calls to coordinate the logistics of getting the flags ordered and coordinating the placing of the flags. We are excited about honoring veterans this Memorial Day."
For more information about SAL, search for "Sons of The American Legion Squadron 82" on Facebook or contact Weller by text or phone at 704-473-5282.