Volunteers honor heroes at Fort Custer National Cemetery

ROSS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Memorial Day celebrations have been canceled at national cemeteries all over the country because of COVID-19.

But in true West Michigan fashion, volunteers took it upon themselves to make sure our fallen heroes were honored.

“We personally brought out 24,000 flags today to place on veterans’ graves,” said Don Thursby of Gun Lake. “We have a couple of other groups that have 9-14,000 flags themselves.”

After the formal ceremony was canceled, volunteers made up for it with upward of $7,000 being raised by local truck clubs to make it happen.

“During this time, it’s really cool — with the restrictions and everything — to see the community come together and put flags down,” James Timm of Middleville said. “Come together for a greater good.”

Volunteers looking to honor our nation’s history spent all morning and afternoon placing flags on more than 38,000 veterans’ grave markers at Fort Custer National Cemetery.

Volunteers honoring veterans at Fort Custer National Cemetery. (May 24, 2020)

“As a fellow service member, these are my brothers and sisters, whether they died in action or just died during their normal life,” said Amanda Winters, an Air Force veteran from Dorr. “We have something in common where we’ve served our country.”

And those placing the flags came from all age groups.

“Gives me a proud feeling to know there’s enough people that really care that they would come out and do this,” said Glen Back, an Army veteran who was there to honor the 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s fallen. “A lot of people have kind of forgotten what this means — the importance of honoring our soldiers that have given their lives for their country.”

Organizers of the effort have one more ask: They’re hoping volunteers can return Wednesday morning to retrieve the flags, so that the cemetery can be properly landscaped.

But even though all the flags will have to be packed up, it’s a tribute that carries much more weight than a single day.

“It’s very important to the people of the world to know that we honor those people, even though they’re gone,” he said.