While Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone still has not heard back on his appeal to allow groups to place American flags at national cemeteries this Memorial Day weekend, he is still looking for volunteers to help place them at local ones.
Bellone is moving forward with a plan to have volunteers place American flags in the ground by the gravestones of servicemen and women at more than a dozen cemeteries across the county on Saturday, May 23, at 9:30 AM, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The county, which has already receiving many donations from businesses, is also looking for 3500 more flags to accomplish the task.
Despite a longstanding tradition of flags at national cemeteries, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs banned groups from placing American flags at national cemeteries in area that has not met reopening guidelines. Bellone said May 21 during his daily briefing that his appeal has remained unanswered.
Without a repeal, “that tradition will end Memorial Day weekend,” he wrote in a plea for help on his Facebook page. “As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we cannot let this Memorial Day pass us by without honoring our nation’s veterans.”
Those interested in participating in Saturday’s events can register online by going to Bellone’s Facebook page or clicking here. The county executive has laid out a plan for social distancing guidelines to be enforced during the effort.
“There is no better way to demonstrate our strength and resolve to win the battle against this virus than by honoring our fallen heroes even in the midst of this crisis,” he wrote to residents.
Small stick flags, 8-by-12 to 12-by-18-inches in size, can be donated in a drop box at the county’s H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. Donors can also dial 311 and a pickup can be arranged.
Last weekend, Bellone announced a partnership with private cemeteries, like Shaarey Pardes Accabonac Grove Cemetery in Springs and Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary Cemetery in Southampton, to place flags at gravestones. The county is also working with local Boy Scout troops and veteran organizations to place the flags.
Other participating cemeteries include St. John the Evangelist Parish Cemetery in Riverhead, First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Southold, and Our Lady of the Isle Cemetery on Shelter Island.