Tuesday, May 22, 2012

GUEST COLUMN: "Who Will Decorate Graves of Our Fallen Warriors?"

Rep. Jean Schmidt
By Rep. Jean Schmidt

Many of the graves of veterans in Southern Ohio are marked with American flags each year in observance of Memorial Day. In the past, such flags have usually been placed by veterans groups. But the ranks of some groups have been diminished as members became infirm with age or died themselves.

Veterans service commissions in most of the seven counties in Ohio’s Second Congressional District, which I represent, remain committed to placing new flags on the graves of those who served our great nation in the military.

In Adams County and Clermont County, the veterans service commissions have contacted local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops as well as 4-H groups to request help with this task, I was told. It can qualify as a community service project for the youth groups.

The tradition of placing flags on the graves of our veterans is something that should be passed down from generation to generation. This small measure of respect shows thoughtfulness and compassion.

Most of us will never know the terrors of war, but almost everyone has been touched by someone in the military. Memorial Day began as a way to honor Union troops who died in the Civil War. Now, the last Monday in May is a national holiday on which we remember all of our fallen veterans.

You might want to call your local veterans service commission to see if you can help place flags. (In addition to Clermont and Adams, Warren County would appreciate having more volunteers, I was told. Some others, such as Hamilton County, aren’t currently seeking help.)

Some veterans service commissions provide flags, as well as the names and locations of cemeteries that have yet to be decorated. The graves of veterans are sometimes indicated by metal placards, and some graves might still be decorated with faded American flags from last year. Some veterans service commissions will take the old flags back for an official disposal ceremony.

While it is good and proper that this Memorial Day we salute those who have died, let us also remember the veterans we are blessed to still have among us.

For example, volunteers are sometimes needed to drive veterans who live in Adams County to the VA Medical Centers in Cincinnati or Chillicothe. Not all counties need drivers. In Clermont County, the Veterans Service Commission can arrange for a van to take veterans to their medical appointments, I was told.

Helping veterans is a great way to say thank you for their service to our country.

Veterans service commissions in Southern Ohio can help veterans obtain benefits to which they are entitled. Not all local commissions need volunteers, but some would appreciate help: Adams County, (937) 544-5005; Brown County, (937) 378-3155; Clermont County, (513) 732-7363; Hamilton County, (513) 946-3300; Pike County, (740) 947-2766; Scioto County, (740) 353-1477; Warren County, (513) 695-1363.