Flag now flies for St. John’s veterans
For the United States military veterans buried in the combined St. John’s Lutheran Church and village cemetery along Highway 13 north of Spencer, a new sound has appeared. Along with the steady noise of passing traffic, there is the subtle rippling of an American flag in the wind.
That flag was placed Sunday afternoon by a group of volunteer veterans who believe in their lifelong duty to honor those who served with them. Led by Jim Kitchen, a Vietnam veteran and commander of an American Legion post, the flag placed Sunday is the 133rd one it has done in area cemeteries in the last few years.
At many rural cemeteries, small flags have long marked veterans’ gravesites, and that has been the case at St. John’s site. No one, though, had ever erected a flag pole for Old Glory to wave for all the veterans within.
Kitchen said that did not sit right with him.
“They cannot all be buried at Arlington (National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.), but we do have the right to be buried under the flag under which we served,” Kitchen said.
The effort started years ago when Kitchen’s local Legion unit began to notice how many cemeteries had no overhead flag. In one case, he said, there was a flag flying, but the pole and flag had fallen to the ground.
“It was there for three weeks and nobody did a thing,” he said.
Kitchen’s unit took up a collection to fix that problem, and has since raised funds to pay for new poles and flags at dozens of burial grounds. It contacted St. John’s officials recently and asked for permission to put up one there.
“Now they are buried under the flag under which they served,” Kitchen said Sunday of the 15 known veterans in the St. John’s cemetery.
The project is an extension of what Kitchen said is his and other living veterans’ obligation to remember and honor the women and men who gave their life in defense of the country.
“As a veteran, I have an oath that doesn’t expire,” he said.
Donations toward the flag and pole costs can be directed to the St. John’s cemetery committee.
DEAN LESAR/STAFF PHOTO