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Homewood Residents Help with Flag Planting at Mt. Olivet

Repost from Frederick News Post:

Dozens of volunteers wandered through the Mount Olivet Cemetery on Saturday, checking lists of names as they attempted to find the grave of every veteran or fallen soldier buried there.

As they found them, they carefully placed a U.S. flag at the headstone.

According to Chris Haugh, community relations and historic preservation manager for the cemetery, roughly one out of every nine of the cemetery’s tens of thousands of interred qualified for a flag, but not every one of those graves had a service marker.

That made the flag-planting a monumental undertaking for the volunteers, who came representing a number of local groups, including the likes of the Friends of Mount Olivet Cemetery and Homewood at Frederick. Each group was assigned its own segment of the cemetery to cover, complete with a list of names to look for.

Deep into the cemetery, the folks from Homewood were gathered at their assigned spot, eyes cast on the ground as they looked for names on headstones. They’d call out excitedly to each other when they found the graves, and they reverently placed the flags at the sites.

Howard Smith, who was organizing Homewood’s involvement in the program, said Saturday’s flag-planting was an early step in the process that will culminate with the annual Wreaths Across America event on Dec. 18. He said the flags have a multi-faceted purpose.

“The flags honor the veterans, but they also give an idea of where the wreaths should go when they come,” he said.

Haugh agreed, saying he and the cemetery staff initially envisioned the annual flag-planting partially as a way to make sure the wreaths could be placed in December, even if the headstones get covered in snow.

Smith, a retired lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Air Force, suggested the flag-planting was close to his heart, but it was perhaps even closer to the heart of Will Chapman, another one of the volunteers from Homewood.

Chapman also served in the U.S. Air Force, entering in 1956 and having achieved the rank of major by the time he left in 1977. Chapman said the flags help honor those who gave everything, like his son Nathan Chapman, the first American soldier to be killed in the War in Afghanistan in 2002.

Chapman recently moved to Frederick and said this is the first time he’s gotten involved in a program like this here.

“It feels good to be able to do something to recognize these brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “For the most part, very few of us go to war. The rest of us go to the mall. And this is one way that people who didn’t have the opportunity to serve can honor those that did.”

Fuss Newlin Wreaths ACross America