Memorial Day is a week away now, so I thought I'd fly the flags for a few days. This arrangement is displayed some years on Memorial Day in the Grand Army of the Republic section of the Chariton Cemetery, but other years not. So this photo is a few years old.
The G.A.R. section was purchased during the late 1890s by Daniel Iseminger Post No. 18, Grand Army of the Republic, for a couple of purposes. For one, it became the staging area for annual Decoration Day ceremonies at the cemetery. For another, it was intended that veterans be buried here, primarily if they had no other place to be buried although that restriction was loosely enforced. And several are.
Here's a report on activities at the cemetery on Memorial Day, 1898, lifted from The Chariton Patriot of June 2, that year. Try envisioning this next time you're at the cemetery and drive past the G.A.R. plot:
MEMORIAL DAY IN CHARITON
Soldiers' Graves Decorated by School Children --- Colonel S.A. Moore Delivers the Address
Memorial Day dawned clear and bright. It was an ideal day. Promptly at 2 o'clock the procession, headed by Iseminger Post martial band, started for the cemetery. Nearly ninety soldiers, each one carrying a basket of flowers, followed the band. Then came the school girls and boys, then the W.R.C. (Womens Relief Corps), and lastly the carriages of citizens.
On reaching the cemetery the G.A.R. repaired to its lot south of the gate. The lot had a large number of banners and flags waving in the breeze, and a notable feature of this lot decoration was the world "Dewey" spelled out with flags stuck in the ground to form the letters.
Chaplain Blous and H.G. Curtis delivered the regular order for service for the decoration of graves. A beautiful song by about eighteen girls and boys from our high school was well rendered. A list of the soldiers' graves to be decorated was then read and the baskets of flowers were placed in the hands of little girls dressed in white. After the graves had been freely covered with these flowers the procession then formed and returned to the city, where the opera hall was used in concluding the services.
The high school choir sang "Our Banner," after which Rev. Whitten led in prayer. Col. W.S. Dungan then introduced the orator of the occasion, Col. S.A. Moore, of Bloomfield, referring to him as "the silver tongued orator of Iowa."
At the conclusion of this patriotic and sould stirring address, the audience joined the choir in singing "America" and the services of the day were over.
Headed home from the cemetery after taking a look at the G.A.R. plot last evening, I stopped at the American Legion Hall to drop off a couple of tattered U.S. flags collected during the last few weeks while roaming around country cemeteries.
There's a big hinged container just north of the main stairs to the hall where tattered, worn and/or unwanted U.S. flags can be depositied --- and Legionnaires then will dispose of them properly.
Frankly, I don't care whether folks fly the flag or not --- but I do engage in considerable self-righteous indignation when I spot tattered flags flying or happen upon faded, frayed or otherwise damaged gravesite flags that look like they've been abandoned for years.
For heaven's sake people --- if you're inclined to fly or post the flag, remember that the follow-up obligation is to take care of it.
The small gravesite flags that will be placed in holders at veteran graves prior to Memorial Day aren't an issue. Those who place them will collect them as soon as possible after Memorial Day and they'll be stored away for use another year if in good condition.
But occasionally, family members or others decide to place flags at veteran gravesites at other times. And that's fine --- the protocol related to gravesite flags is relaxed. But don't just leave the flags there to rot. Monitor their condition, remove them before they become frayed and tattered or don't place them at all.