‘Helping people who helped us’ -- Families place flags on graves of Metro Detroit veterans

Veterans discuss significance behind national holiday

Veterans, scouts and patriotic Americans placed flags at gravestones. It’s when you take a step back and see the sheer number of flags, the significance becomes even more profound.
Veterans, scouts and patriotic Americans placed flags at gravestones. It’s when you take a step back and see the sheer number of flags, the significance becomes even more profound.

DETROIT – Veterans, scouts and patriotic Americans placed flags at gravestones. It’s when you take a step back and see the sheer number of flags, the significance becomes even more profound.

“It makes me sad to see so many flags, but it makes me happy to see so many helping,” said Ed Burkhardt, American Legion Post 253.

On Saturday, dozens of families placed flags and cleaned veteran graves at Oakview Cemetery in Royal Oak.

“There are thousands upon thousands of veterans in this cemetery alone, let alone hundreds of thousands in the Metro area honoring those who have served. This Memorial Day long weekend tradition has been taking place for more than 80 years,” said Robert Madison, VFW Post 1669.

“For people to give up a little of their time during the long weekend, it’s what Memorial Day is all about,” said Madison.

For some the significance of those who paid the ultimate price is testimony passed down from generation to generation.

“I’m here to honor the people who made this a free country,” said Alexander Nelson, a scout.

Bella Nelson, another scout added, “Makes me feel proud why? Because I’m helping people who helped us.”

Commander Peter Murphy just retired after 31 years in the US Navy.

“It’s different. I’m not in uniform this year. With an armful of flags he carefully made his way from one gravestone to the next,” said Murphy.

“If you look at the date of death and it correlates to a conflict that tells you something.”

Burkhardt discussed the significance behind the holiday.

“A lot of people make the mistake of coming up to a veteran and thanking them and saying happy Memorial Day. It’s not happy, it’s solemn. This is why we’re a free country this is why we have democracy. It’s because of these people,” said Burkhardt.

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About the Authors:

Priya joined WDIV-Local 4 in 2013 as a reporter and fill-in anchor. Education: B.A. in Communications/Post Grad in Advanced Journalism

Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.