MIDDLETOWN – “I feel all veterans should have someone looking at for them, so if there’s anything I can do to remember a veteran, I want to help the best I can.”
That’s the reason Cadet Russell Karshmer of Highlands gave for joining more than a dozen other cadets as well as numerous other volunteers in replacing faded and word American flags on the graves of veterans in Bayview Cemetery a week before Memorial Day.
Karshmer, a freshman at MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology at Sandy Hook, joined fellow cadets from MAST, as well as members of the Rumson Fair Haven High School Veterans Appreciation Club and Henry Hudson students members of Leos, the Lions organization, in replacing hundreds of flags of veterans at the cemetery. The annual event is a long time tradition of the American Legion, Post 141 of Atlantic Highlands, and gives volunteers the opportunity to show special respect for veterans of all wars.
Post Commander Peter Doyle thanked the dozens of volunteers who spent several hours last Saturday morning, not only to install fresh new flags on all veterans graves, but also to take away the faded flags. A group of volunteers then separated the faded flags from the posts that had held the I place, and gathered the flags all together for Doyle to take to Atlantic Highlands for a proper ceremony generally conducted by the local Boy Scout troop, to burn the flags with respect.
“It’s important to respect those who have given their lives for our country, “ said Cadet Jake Sjasword of Tinton Falls, a junior r at MAST, “it’s a way of saying thanks for the sacrifice they made to keep us the greatest nation there is.”
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Cadet Victoria Walker of Middletown is the senior supply officer at MAST and said this was her first time in participating in the flag planting morning at Bayview Cemetery. “OI just wanted to help out,” she said.
Cadet Isabella Colgan of Howell, a sophomore at MAST said she also just wanted to help, but added, “I was really happy to be doing something, because my grandfather was a veteran, and “I also did it for him.”
Many of the cadets spent extra time at the graves, reading the names and the wars in which the veterans had served, seeing the awards they had earned, and seeing the deaths of family members. Some noticed parents who had lost children before their own deaths, or families who had more than one service member. “I never walked through a cemetery before,” several of the cadets remarked, “there are hundreds of stories in here.”
Before the volunteers took su8pplies of flags and working in teams, covered the entire cemetery to ensure all veterans were visited, Doyle explained the process of replacing flags, advising volunteers where to place the at each grave, and ensure the flags being replaced did not touch the ground and be brought back to their meeting place for proper disposition.
William Boynton, chaplain of the legion Post, reminded the cadets that a Medal of Honor recipient is one of those buried at Bayview and led the group in prayers in the traditional ceremony, reminding them they in Middletown were doing the same as other volunteers at Arlington National Cemetery were also doing.
Following the replacement of all flags, the Post hosted an outdoor luncheon for the volunteers at the Atlantic Highlands Yacht Harbor.
The MAST cadets, together with Senior Naval Instructor CDR. Tracie Smith-Yeoman, USN (ret) are also marching in the borough’s annual Memorial Day parade set for 11 a.m. Monday. The parade starts at the municipal Yacht Harbor and goes along First Avenue to Veterans Park opposite Borough Hall, where memorial services will be held for all deceased veterans of the borough.