Dozens of volunteers made it out to the Merced District Cemetery on Saturday morning to decorate the headstones of more than 2,300 American military veterans with American flags.
Frank Towler, grounds supervisor for the Merced District Cemetery, said he and about nine other groundskeepers have been trimming and landscaping for three weeks to prepare for the Memorial Day ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday.
“I think it’s very important,” said Jimmy Frye, district manager for Merced Cemetery District. “It gives people a chance to pay back and honor vets. It creates a (camaraderie); people come year after year.”
Merced resident and navy veteran Josh Cooman has been coming out to volunteer for several years. He said sometimes veterans don’t get the appreciation or support they deserve and thinks coming out to help is a good way to show support.
“It’s important to show support for vets whether you served or not,” Cooman said.
Laurel Morris-McGowen is a Merced resident who has been coming to volunteer for four years, and encouraged her sister, Ellen Morris-Weber, to come down from Fresno to help as well.
“It brings tears to my eyes to think about what they (veterans) did for us to keep us free,” Morris-Weber said.
The sister’s father was a World War II veteran, and they have friends and family who served in the Vietnam War.
“They saw battle, they fought the war,” Morris-McGowen said. “They literally sacrificed their lives for us.”
For some volunteers it was their first time helping out. Steve Newvine has lived in Merced for 10 years and decided to come out to show his gratitude and respect for the soldiers who have fallen and who continue to fight for the country.
“I think we all recognize the significant contributions our veterans have made in all of our nation’s wars,” Newvine said. “And I think there’s certainly a heightened level of awareness in recent years given the conflicts that we’re seeing worldwide.”