Honoring Those Who Served: Flag “Planting” at the Santa Maria Cemetery

Each year on the Saturday before Memorial Day, I force take my daughter to the Santa Maria Cemetery to help the local VFW put flags on the graves of veterans. We typically go with other members of the local Children of the American Revolution (C.A.R.) group, but this year, everyone else seemed to have plans, so it was just the two of us.

This was our 4th consecutive year of helping out. My job was to poke a hole in the ground with a screwdriver – and I now have a nice, big bruise on the palm of my right hand. Daughter’s job was to put the flag in the hole. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially for a 4 (almost 5) year-old.

We’ve learned from our previous visits that the ground is often muddy and wet… hence the pink rain boots. It is also cold and damp on most Central Coast mornings – even in the summer – so dressing in layers is a good idea.

We (I) read out loud the name, rank, and service of each veteran to whom we gave a flag. My daughter can only read very basic words now, but she was able to pick out many of the veterans graves all by herself (they all look pretty much the same).

Surprisingly, there were not as many volunteers from the community out this year. In the past, we’ve arrived at 8:00 a.m., or shortly afterwards, and there were so many people helping that the job was almost complete. We worked for over an hour this time, putting out at least 60 flags, and finally stopped when my daughter’s attention span was maxed… and my hand was too sore to poke any more holes.

Note to self: next year, wear thick gloves.

We had some great mommy-daughter bonding time, and enjoyed honoring our veterans. My daughter kept jumping up and down telling me how much fun she was having.

I’m very proud of my little girl, who thinks honoring our servicemembers is a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O’Neal

Elizabeth is a professional genealogist, writer, and consultant. Likes: long walks in the cemetery, and the smell of old courthouse books. Dislikes: people who copy stuff off the internet without giving credit, and county clerks who can't tell the difference between Eastern and Pacific time zones. Secretly hopes her daughter will one day develop an interest in family history (but no luck so far).

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  1. Oh, my dear Miss Lizybth, I wish we could have been there, but we were due at a big party up in Nipomo mid-day, and I was making two dishes to take with us…didn’t have my act together enough to have ’em done the night before. Sorry that the Clack family did not show up to help out. :-( But thank YOU BOTH for helping to honor our veterans on this Memorial Day weekend…xoxoxo

  2. Just because we didn’t have anywhere else to go doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t be enjoying the long weekend!

    We saw J.T. at the cemetery, but she was working solo in what she said was her favorite spot. We were joined for a lovely breakfast at Denny’s by T.W. and her HODAR M., so we had a great morning! Maybe we’ll see you tomorrow?

  3. What a wonderful idea. I think my children will enjoy doing this next year so we’ll be joining you. Different cemetery, but still…

  4. Elizabeth, what an amazing way to teach our children the true meaning of Memorial Day and all that our servicemen did and are doing for us. I think I will take my grandchildren to our local cemetery next year and also join in helping out . . . I already can’t wait and wish I had thought of it this year . . . thank you, Elizabeth and little one, you both are awesome!

  5. $5 for the boots, two hours bonding time with your daughter, and instilling a sense of patriotism and duty and respect = priceless!

    She will remember these times forever, and tell her children and grandchildren about them.

    Well done, mom!

    I need to do this with my grandchildren at their great-grandparents graves also. We can go to the tide pools at the end of Point Loma after visitng fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

  6. What a beautiful all-in-one bonding experience and patriotic gesture. Good job Mom!

  7. What a wonderful memory your daughter will have of this tradition. Thank you for giving your time.

  8. Great tradition and hope you keep it up. It is sad that more Americans do not share your patriotism and honor to those that served our country. And I think it is great your little girl has such a great time doing it. We have been to the Netherlands American Cemetery the past two Memorial Day weekends and my kids have enjoyed finding their great grandfathers grave and putting flowers down. Great post as they all are.


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