Alex Martinez was justifiably proud when he saw what he helped create on Friday at the Lindsay-Strathmore Cemetery.
“You have to see all those flags lined up and blowing in the wind,” Martinez said. “I know a lot of people like to see those flags. Just seeing them after they went up, it was a great feeling.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic the normal services and placing of flags have been curtailed at local cemeteries. But people like Martinez and Jay Rice are working to make up at least in part of what's being lost this year.
The effort that normally happens to place the Avenue of Flags at Lindsay-Strathmore Cemetery wasn't going to happen this year. But Martinez and his family took care of that.
Martinez and his family volunteered on Friday morning to place the 100 large American flags to form the Avenue of Flags at the cemetery. The flags have been donated by those of loved ones who served in the military and have passed away and are stored at the Lindsay-Strathmore cemetery. The names of those loved ones are displayed with the flags.
“It was just awesome,” Martinez said.
Martinez, his father, Raul Martinez, his mothr Pam Martinez, his daughter Naomi Martinez, his son Nathan Martinez and his niece Taylor Martinez along with Lindsay High teacher Frank Moran all volunteered on Friday to place the flags.
“That was so nice having them out here helping,” Lindsay-Strathmore Cemetery Brenda Altermatt said.
Altermatt also said volunteers from Pipeline 99, a business in Lindsay, will be out this weekend to place small flags at the grave sites of veterans at the cemetery.
Meanwhile Rice put it best when talking about trying to make up for what's been lost. “It's something,” he said.
Rice was out at Hillcrest Cemetery on Friday morning looking for graves with military markers to place American flags.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic American Legion Post 20 has had to cancel its annual Memorial Day service this year.
Because it isn't feasible as far as the time it takes and the social distance that's required, American Legion Post 20 is also unable to place American flags at the military grave sites at Hillcrest Cemetery, Vandalia Cemetery and St. Anne's Cemetery.
The American Legion has been able to place 4,000 flags at the military grave sites annually until this year. It's believed to be the first time since at least the early 1970s the American Legion hasn't been able to do what it normally does on Memorial Day.
Rice contacted The American Legion to inform them he would at least try to lead an effort to place as many flags as possible at local military grave sites.
Rice said it's understandable the American Legion can't do what it normally does this year. “They're following orders,” said Rice, who served in the U.S. Marines himself and is also a Burton School board member. “They're pretty saddened by it.”
Rice bought 40 flags and was walking around Hillcrest Cemetery, looking for military grave sites for them to be placed. He said others were also planning to place flags at military grave sites throughout the weekend.
He added as many people are encouraged to buy as many flags as they can to place at military grave sites.
And of course there were already those at the cemetery who were placing flags at their loved one's military grave sites on Friday.
Rice said the effort to place the flags at the military grave sites has to be staggered throughout the weekend to meet social distance guidelines.
Among the grave sites he placed a flag at was of legendary Porterville Panther Band director Buck Shaffer, who served in the U.S. Air Force.
He also placed a flag at the grave site of fellow U.S. Marine Fransisco “Frankie” Geronimo Villegas. Rice said Villegas also worked for Sony testing video games. “The brotherhood,” said Rice about his fellow Marine.
He said he will come back by on Tuesday to pick up the flags and added those who place flags at the military grave sites should do the same.