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Veterans organizations need help placing flags on military graves

Enid News & Eagle - 5/21/2024

May 21—ENID, Okla. — The men and women dedicated to supporting veterans are asking for a little help themselves this Memorial Day holiday to honor deceased military by placing flags on cemetery graves.

Both Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2270 and American Legion Argonne Post 4 are asking for volunteers to help put out about 6,000 flags at Enid Cemetery and Memorial Park Cemetery.

The organizations switch cemetery responsibilities every year, but each year is difficult as the membership shrinks and the remaining members are aging, both Mike Toone, commander of the Enid American Legion, and Ronald Slowik, past state commander for the VFW and local quartermaster, said.

Most of the membership is in their 70s or older, the men said, and some of them are not able to help place the flags, which is a humbling experience and a perfect way to honor those who have served — some making the ultimate sacrifice for — their country, according to volunteers.

The American Legion will meet at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 23, 2024, to start placing 18-inch flags on the gravestones of veterans at Enid Cemetery. The VFW will begin placing flags at Memorial Park Cemetery at 6 p.m. Friday. Both groups will gather near the cemetery offices to hand out flags that will be supplied. The American Legion expected to place about 2,000 at Enid Cemetery, with the VFW placing around 4,000 at Memorial Park, according to Toone and Slowik.

In addition, Woodring Wall of Honor and Veterans Park are requesting volunteers to help them place 214 crosses near the M.L. Becker Educational Center and stones holding the names of thousands of veterans, both living and deceased, on walls forming the park. Elaine Johns, executive director of Woodring Wall of Honor and Veterans Park, said organizers will be placing the crosses at 10 a.m. Thursday at the park, which is located at the entrance of Enid Woodring Regional Airport, where Memorial Day activities will be held on Monday.

John said the reason Americans have the freedoms they do is "because someone has given the ultimate sacrifice to provide that for us."

"They're going to put flags on the graves at the Enid cemetery. Go out and volunteer to do that. They need all the help they can get," Johns said. "Let's get our service groups together and support them as best we can because everybody is doing great things for our veterans in our community."

Toone and Slowik said monetary donations also are appreciated for those unable to help place flags, as money is tight these days for the groups. Those interested in making those tax-deductible donations can send them to 621 N. Independence, Enid, OK 73701, for the VFW, and 121 W. Oak, Enid, OK 73701, for the American Legion.

Membership is open to veterans who served in a hostile land during a hostile action for the VFW and to any honorably discharged veteran for the AL., the men said.

Both buildings are in need of thousands of dollars in repairs, they said, and the AL currently is restarting its meetings at the Oklahoma Military Exhibit at Oakwood Mall because of the issues with the building. It is working toward meeting on the third Thursday of the month, while the VFW meets at its building on the third Tuesday of the month. Both organizations can be found on Facebook.

"We try to take care of veterans," Slowik summed up their purpose.

Both the VFW and American Legion have a national presence in Washington, D.C., and most of the massive improvements in veterans health centers and medical assistance can be attributed to their efforts. Membership needs to increase for those advocacy efforts to continue.

And more needs to be done, Toone added. He said the phrase Lose 22 came from the loss of 22 veterans a day to suicide.

"We're just trying to take care of veterans," he said.

Those wishing to volunteer can find the organizers near the cemetery offices at their allotted times, the men said. This year the cemetery officials were working to mark the graves with buttons to make it easier to spot military gravestones so volunteers will have an easier time finding the graves for veterans.

Volunteers can help the entire time or just stay for as long as they are able.

"However much time they can spend," Slowik said. "It helps tremendously."

Both men said the process takes a couple of hours, depending on how many volunteers they have to help.

Hassler is the digital content coordinator for the Enid News & Eagle.

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