HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Many veterans’ headstones won’t have a flag in front of them this memorial day. Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and other organizations decided not to participate in this longtime tradition due to COVID-19. One VFW post in Hot Springs is making sure those who paid the ultimate sacrifice still get the recognition they deserve.
It’s a tradition that spans more than two decades. Each Memorial Day the Hot Springs VFW Post 2278 honors those who died in uniform with a small but powerful gesture.
“The flag is a symbol of our freedom and the service people have provided to give us that freedom can’t go unrecognized,” State VFW Commander Will Beams said.
In some cemeteries it will go unrecognized this year because of COVID-19.
“Some people are just airing on the side of caution,” Beams said.
The VFW Post thought their 25 year tradition would come to a halt but they still found a way to get those flags where they belong.
This is what veterans service organizations do,” Beams said.
Amanda Thompson comes out each year to place flags next to headstones. One of them is in remembrance of her husband who was killed while serving over seas.
“He was killed in August of 2002. I had two babies already and another that was born two days after we buried him,” Thompson said.
For her family, these flags bring a sense of comfort on a day that’s heavy with emotions.
“It’s a day of reflection and quiet time for our family and our kids,” Thompson said.
Families like hers is why dozens from the VFW to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts made sure each veteran’s grave had a token of appreciation despite the ongoing pandemic.
“It’s because of every single flag out here that we have the right and the ability to be out here. That needs to be recognized regardless of the circumstances,” Beams said.
For Thompson, seeing the red white and blue scattered among the headstones serves as a reminder, no matter the circumstances, her husbands service will never be forgotten.
“They’re actually doing things that means something to families like mine,” Thompson said.
VFW leaders say they had one of the largest turnouts in years. They did take precautions like wearing masks and keeping their distance.