With American flags in his hand, Shelton McCallop looked towards the grounds of Sandhills Cemetery. Some of the markings on the graves were hard to read, but he stopped when he came across a stone with World War II engraved on it. McCallop took a single flag from the bundle and pushed it into the ground.
“It’s not a lot of them left,” McCallop said about soldiers from the first two world wars. “But we still honor those guys too and a lot of times, their relatives are still around.”
With Christmas approaching, McCallop joined his comrades of the Henry J. Fowler American Legion Post 319 and the Auxiliary and planted more than 200 flags on the sites of veterans who fought in conflicts such as the Vietnam War, Gulf War and several others. The members and volunteers also visited the Hillcrest Cemetery on Monday.
“This is are way of honoring them,” said Helen Faison, president of the Henry J. Flower American Legion Auxiliary. “We want their memory to stay alive and we want our youth to know who’s out there fighting for our freedom. Freedom is not free. They are the ones who gave it to us and still continue to do.”
While placing new flags, the Legionnaires and volunteers picked up tattered flags which will properly be disposed of during a ceremony.
“It’s very important to do this and it’s a way to give back to some of the veterans who have passed on,” McCallop said.
Volunteer Andre Price is one of several volunteers who assists the American Legion with activities during the year. For three years, Price worked with the veterans and said it’s something he loves to do.
“It’s a great cause and I think it’s really necessary that we do this to honor the veterans every year,” Price said.
Price is the son of Darryl Price, vice president of the Sampson County Veterans Council. While spending time with the veterans and his father, he alluded to how those who serve represent what the United States is all about.
Tex Howard, president of the Sampson County Veterans Council, said it gives the community a chance to recognize the individuals who served. The families of veterans appreciate seeing it too.
“It recognizes the veterans who passed on before us,” Howard said.
In addition to helping veterans with services, the veterans conduct other service initiatives. Some of them include visiting nursing centers, helping with the Toys for Tots Foundation, collecting donations for the Oxford’s Children’s Home and Poppy Day, which is one of the oldest and widely recognized programs of the Legion’s Auxiliary. Observed since the end of World War I, the purpose is to remember members of the armed forces who died during service.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.