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Memorial Day: Flags on graves is one way to show respect

AMIE WILHELM, LEFT, and Molly Thalen took flags to veterans’ graves around the Foote Street Cemetery in Middlebury last week, remembering and honoring their services with a memento of American pride. Independent photo/Steve James

MIDDLEBURY — It’s a bittersweet sight this time of year: Somber, silent cemeteries swathed in a radiant blanket of red, white and blue, denoting those who served — and in some cases, made the ultimate sacrifice — as part of the United States military.

Yes, Old Glory is ubiquitous in the myriad Memorial Day salutes to Addison County folks who fought and died for their country. And if you’re paying homage at any one of more than a dozen cemeteries spanning Middlebury, Bridport, Cornwall, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge, the flags you see have most likely been acquired and planted by Middlebury American Legion Post 27.

Tom Scanlon, adjutant of Post 27, said the Middlebury Legion this year ordered around 1,400 flags to distribute among veterans’ graves in more than a dozen cemeteries in and around the county’s shire town. Wednesday, May 18, saw several Boy Scouts placing flags at Middlebury’s Case Street and Foote Street cemeteries. All of the grave flags will be distributed over the course of a month, according to Scanlon.

Commanding particular attention from Post 27 is the Farmingdale Veterans Cemetery off Three Mile Bridge Road in Middlebury. Formerly known as the Seeley Cemetery, it’s the oldest graveyard in town, and its many illustrious inhabitants include several veterans of the Revolutionary War. Those reposing at Farmingdale also include Middlebury’s first settler, Benjamin Smalley, and Ann Story, the heroine of Daniel P. Thompson’s tale of the early settlement of Vermont, titled “Green Mountain Boys.”

Scanlon noted Farmingdale has more than 600 plots left for area veterans and their family members.

While Farmingdale will get its share of much-deserved attention Memorial Day weekend, many of the headlines — at least in Addison County — will likely be made at the tiny and remote First Weybridge Hill Cemetery, off Weybridge Road. That’s where a number of American Legion and National Guard members, along with various state and local dignitaries, will preside over the interment of the remains of Josiah Clark, who fought at the Revolutionary War Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775 (See story by clicking here).

THE SCOUTS WHO placed flags at veterans’ graves in a Middlebury cemetery last week paused to honor their forebearers with a salute. Shown are, from left, front row, Odin Wilhelm, JD Marais, Marolyn Bingham and Amie Wilhelm; and, back row, Nathan Stefani and Molly Thalen.
Independent photo/Steve James

Middlebury Post 27 will supply a Color Guard to march from the church to the cemetery. Post 27 is also covering the expenses of the horse-drawn wagon, a bagpiper and a flag for Clark’s coffin.

“It’s about respect for our veterans, and that’s what the Legion is all about,” Scanlon said of Post 27’s efforts to distribute flags and ensure proper burial arrangements for those who served.

“Veterans are very near and dear to my heart,” added Scanlon, whose dad was a World War II veteran.

It should be noted that Post 27’s generosity extends far beyond flags and burial assistance. The group each year gives more than $50,000 to various charitable causes — and that doesn’t include scholarships to graduating Middlebury Union High School students. The Legion supports homeless veterans, the aging and the sick, and children’s causes. Post 27 grant recipients have included Homeward Bound, Green Mountain Boy Scouts, the Vermont Veterans Home, Addison County Readers, area fire departments, first responders and numerous sports programs.

Also, based on a memo of understanding with the Vermont Department of Health, Post 27 hosted numerous clinics during the pandemic, through which 19,300 vaccinations were dispensed.

Anyone wishing to donate to Post 27’s efforts on behalf of veterans can send a check to Middlebury American Legion Post 27, P.O. Box 28, Middlebury, VT 05753. Also, visit americanlegionpost27.com.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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