Honoring the service of all

Published 6:31 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2022

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Perfect lines of 42-inch-high white gravestones, uniformly spaced, each with a small flag placed in front of it, follow the contour of the slightly hilled land — an image that evokes thoughts of sacrifice and service.

Two days before Veterans Day, volunteers gathered at Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery to place a flag at each of the more than 11,000 headstones.

More than 250 volunteers assisted at two separate times Wednesday. A group led by Danny Hockman, commander of VFW Post No. 2582, drilled the holes and placed the majority of the flags starting at 8:30 a.m. Then at 3:30 p.m., several groups — including veterans wearing vests and hats commemorating their service, Boy and Girl Scouts in uniform, members of a pipefitters union and active duty military — arrived to ensure that every grave had a flag. Among the ranks of volunteers were several Gold Star family members.

According to the USO website, the title of Gold Star Family is reserved for families of military members who have died in the line of duty. It is meant to honor the service member’s ultimate sacrifice while acknowledging their family’s loss, grief and continued healing.

Although Memorial Day is set aside to honor the fallen, Hockman explained that sacrifice is still a large part of Veterans Day.

“It is important to remember everybody who served. Memorial Day is for the fallen, but it is important to remember that Veterans Day is not just a day off to have a barbecue,” Hockman said. “It is meant for more — it is meant for us to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and who sacrifice everyday.”

The cemetery will be in full dress with the Avenue of Flags flying and individual flags on each grave site all weekend. The public is invited and encouraged to visit at 5310 Milners Road between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The cemetery holds an open house event Friday in honor of Veterans Day. Employees will be available to answer questions about pre-applications, benefits of burial in one of Virginia’s state-operated veterans cemeteries and cemetery operation procedures. Employees will also be available to assist visitors with locating grave sites.

Hockman said that volunteers are needed to help collect the flags. Anyone interested is encouraged to meet at the cemetery at 9 a.m. Tuesday.