SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Memorial Day is still more than three weeks away but veterans groups are already getting ready.
Cathedral Cemetery in Scranton is the final resting place for more than 15,000 local veterans and every year members of an American Legion Post make it their mission to place a new American flag on each grave.
The 85-acre cemetery has veterans from the Civil War and Spanish-American War all the way to the present War on Terrorism.
While it might sound like an easy task to replace flags, making sure each grave is properly marked actually takes weeks.
Duty, service and sacrifice. It can all be seen by looking at Cathedral Cemetery in Scranton.
With a brisk breeze Thursday, new American flags display the patriotism of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Volunteers like John Jeffery, a Vietnam and Iraq veteran himself, make it a personal mission to make sure each service member is honored just in time for Memorial Day.
“Even though I don’t know these people like I do the other graves I visit, it matters,” John Jeffery said.
For more than a week now, volunteers have been going row-by-row, replacing old and tattered flags with crisp new ones.
New markers are also installed when needed.
“It’s just about doing the right thing, keep doing the right thing,” volunteer Logan O’Boyle said.
Members of the Koch-Conley American Legion Post 121 take on this task each year.
It is harder than ever.
At one time, the post had more than 4,500 members.
It is now down to just 35 so they’ve asked volunteers to fill in the gap.
“Until you’ve done it and actually helped plant flags and markers, you really don’t appreciate the sacrifice these people make!” COL Joseph Albert (ret) with American Legion Post 121 said.
Each stop is a simple way of saying “thank you” and a reminder that the veteran is not forgotten.
“It means something. It really does. You have to see it to appreciate it!” Albert said.
Members of the Koch-Conley American Legion Post say it may take them right up until Memorial Day to make sure their mission is complete.
The group holds its annual Memorial Day program at the cemetery each year.
Potential volunteers are urged to contact Post coordinators Natt Fedor (570-947-6045), James Joyce (570-343-3757) or Joe Albert (570-335-1117) to schedule a time to help out.