As Memorial Day approaches, family, friends and loved ones gather and reconnect joyously and some, for the first in over a year.
Such moments subsequent to the height of a stifling pandemic and social unrest may cause one to reflect on the words once spoken by FDR, “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”
American Legion Post 32 Commander Steve Sweet would agree with FDR’s sentiments and is why he continues to uphold the duty of honoring those who are currently serving in the armed forces, those who have served and those who lost their lives while serving.
“Memorial Day, the way we put it, is for the men who never got out of the uniform, which means they died while in service,” Sweet said. “But we at the American Legion feel that we should go out and just try to find the ones that never did make it out of uniform and try to put flags on their graves.”
To avoid looking over a soldier who may have served, Sweet said he and other Legionnaires place flags on every veteran’s grave they can find.
“We have the boy scout troops help us and we also have the Greenville Elks Lodge, they put the flags out in the Greenville Cemetery and we put them out in Lakeview Gardens, the Chinese Cemetery and Greenlawn Cemetery — that’s where our members that we had in our post are buried.”
Sweet noted that the families of those veterans over the past years have donated flags to the American Legion and is how they’ve been able to continue placing flags on the graves.
“Every once in a while we get in a bind because through using the flags back and forth, they will get to where we can’t use them anymore and we have to replace them,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate that some of the local patriots have donated flags to us so we can keep doing what we’re doing.”
With Memorial Day traditionally viewed as a “holiday” celebration and an opportunity to enjoy an extended weekend, Sweet offered insight on a way to pay tribute and truly demonstrate appreciation for those who fell while serving their country.
Sweet said, “I would think that parents or grandparents should talk to their children or grandchildren and let them know what Memorial Day stands for and what sacrifices were made in order for us to be living in a free society that we’re living in today.”
Since he joined the American Legion in 1970, he has been placing flags on the graves of veterans and honoring armed forces personnel in every way he possibly could.
However, his hope is for younger veterans to join the American Legion and continue its legacy.
“Sadly, if we don’t get some young folks in to help us out, one day there may not be any flags being placed anywhere,” Sweet said.
He added, “I just wish that every household in Greenville would put a flag out for Memorial Day, Veterans Day and the Fourth of July in honor of the troops that we have that are fighting now, who have fought and the ones who have given their lives so that we may celebrate these days set aside on their behalf.”
In the words of Maya Angelou, “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes.”
About American Legion
The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Focusing on service to veterans, service members and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States.
For more information about the American Legion, visit legion.org.