BOURNE, Mass. (AP) — Hundreds of relatives and well-wishers on Saturday honored the country’s military veterans by planting about 56,000 flags at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, transforming the green landscape into a sea of small fluttering red, white and blue banners.
Cemetery policies did not permit flags and flag holders on graves until last fall. The first flags were planted following pressure from Paul Monti of Raynham, whose son was killed by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan while trying to save a fellow soldier in 2006. Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor and is buried in Bourne.
Paul Monti led a brief ceremony Saturday at the cemetery, where volunteers including Cub Scouts and Gold Star Mothers recited the pledge of allegiance, listened to a dedication and sang the national anthem.
They then fanned out and worked for about an hour, with some armed with screwdrivers to drill holes in the ground before planting the flags at the gravesites. Some lingered to search for the burial sites of relatives or loved ones.
Monti had help from political leaders in changing the cemetery’s policy, but the group he leads pays for the project through fundraisers. Volunteers will return to the cemetery next Sunday to remove the flags.
Monti has said the flags are a personal tribute to his son and fellow soldiers killed in service of their country.