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Avenue of Flags 2020


The Avenue of Flags in Elmwood Cemetery is a sight to behold each year. This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, it will not take place. Post file photo.

by Lois Allen

This year is not normal. It will be a first for our Cedar Springs American Legion Glen Hill Post 287. The first year since 1922, almost a century ago, that old glory will remain shuttered during the day of remembrance—Memorial Day.

The flags will not fly, the crowds will not gather at our cemeteries and the band will not play on. No cemetery walk and no dinner, the doors to the legion will remain closed.

The Cedar Springs Historical Society will not give their biographical and historical presentation of several veterans who are laid to rest at Elmwood Cemetery.  Members of the legion will not rise at dawn and begin their ritual of gathering the casket flags carefully stored at the legion and then transporting them to Elmwood to take their place on the avenue to honor our soldiers who served, but are no longer with us. We remember them. We honor them, not just on Memorial Day, but everyday.

Beginning around 5:30 a.m., approximately a dozen members of the legion join together, and according to Gene Kutchinski, former adjutant at the American Legion Post in Cedar Springs in an article published in The Post back in 2003, “We try to get it all done and have them all flying before 8:00 a.m.” He continued, “I believe we will have about 130 flags this year (2003).”

Each year, more flags appear on the avenue as we lose more of our hometown heroes who put their lives on the line in the service of our country. This year, in 2020, there are nearly 200 members of the armed services to be remembered and honored on the “avenue.”

“We will still be placing the smaller flags on the graves,” said Paul Schrier, treasurer for the legion. And when he says we, he means himself. He will personally place the smaller flags on the graves of approximately 190 veterans that rest in peace at Elmwood Cemetery.

Our American Legion is named after Glenn Hill of Cedar Springs. Drafted in September 1917 and sent to France as part of the 338th infantry, he was the first Cedar Springs soldier to die in WWI. Hill was awarded the distinguished service cross July 12, by General Pershing for conspicuous bravery in action. After being decorated twice for gallantry in action, Corporal Glen Hill died of wounds received in battle in the Argonne Forest in France on October 19, 1918. He was 25 years old.

In 2000, two decades ago, publisher Lois Allen (me) and our great editor Judy Reed embarked on a project to make sure we would remember each and every one of our soldiers that are no longer with us from as far back as the war of 1812. It was a daunting task that required going to several townships to pull all records of the deceased in nearly a dozen cemeteries. If a person was a veteran, it was noted in their records. It took more than a week’s worth of work to compile nearly 1,000 names, their rank and the war they fought in. Each year The Post publishes this list at no cost to the families, but sponsored by our area businesses, which are essential to make it happen. We are grateful to be able to do so.

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day.

Correction: In a story last week about the Avenue of Flags, it said that said Paul Schrier, treasurer for the legion, was going to personally place the smaller flags on the graves of approximately 190 veterans that rest in peace at Elmwood Cemetery. We were told this week that it was not Paul, but Tom Norton, that placed the flags on the graves. We regret the error.

Click link below to view our Memorial Day Tribute:

MemorialDay2020.pdf


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Memorial Day services 


The Glen Hill American Legion Post #287 Honor Guard as they walked through the Avenue of Flags at Elmwood Cemetery. Post photo by J. Reed.

Blue sky, sunshine, and hot weather welcomed area residents on Monday, May 28, as they gathered in cemeteries and parks for the annual Memorial Day services.

The ceremony at Elmwood Cemetery ended with a 21-gun salute followed by taps. Post photo by J. Reed.

Here in Cedar Springs, the Glen Hill American Legion Post held services at Elmwood Cemetery, where the Avenue of Flags memorialized veterans laid to rest there. There were names at each of the flags along the walkway, and flags on all the veterans graves, dating as far back as the Civil War. The American Legion also held services at Solon Cemetery; East Nelson Cemetery; and at Veterans Memorial Park on Oak Street. Nelson Township resident Col. Tom Noreen was the guest speaker. 

Memorial Day services were also held at Algoma, Sand Lake, Pierson, and Sparta.

The Cedar Springs Historical Society held their annual cemetery walk honoring veterans on Sunday, May 27.

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A way to remember: the Avenue of Flags


The Avenue of Flags lines the road through Elmwood Cemetery, a reminder of many of the veterans that have served over the years. Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

It’s a majestic site each Memorial Day—hundreds of flags standing proudly, unfurled in the breeze, against the pale blue of a sun-drenched sky. They line the avenue that winds through Elmwood Cemetery on Northland Drive in Cedar Springs. They are beautiful to look at, but what is the story behind them?

According to Paul Schrier, treasurer at the American Legion Glen Hill Post #287, each flag honors a veteran who is no longer living. The flags are casket-sized, and according to Paul, it began years ago when families would give the Legion the flag they received at their loved one’s burial. They would hold on to it for the family, and then fly it once a year on Memorial Day. 

However, some families want to keep the original flag, so the Legion allows families to just buy a duplicate to fly once a year. The Legion also provides a pole and a plate at the base with the name of the veteran.

One thing many people may not know is that the veteran does not have to be buried in Elmwood Cemetery to have a flag on the avenue. But they do need to be a veteran, have been honorably discharged, and have some connection with Cedar Springs. A duplicate flag costs $50, and can be bought from the American Legion Post.

It’s unknown exactly when the tradition started. Schrier said he’s been organizing it for about the last seven years. However, we came across a story in a 1998 edition of the Post where George Cooley, a veteran now deceased, said at the time he had been doing it for 14 years. At the time, there were 101 flags on the Avenue of Flags.

According to Schrier, there are now 180 flags.

It takes some work ahead of time to get the holes in the cemetery ready for the flags, as well as get any new nameplates made. The American Legion also is always looking for volunteers to help put up the flags at 6 a.m. Monday morning, and then take them down again about 4 p.m. in the afternoon. If it is raining, or if rain is forecasted, they will not put them out since they are cotton, and will instead hold services in the American Legion hall.

So what does Schrier want people to feel as they walk through the Avenue of Flags? “It’s pretty impressive. I hope they remember the veterans that have served over the years,” he said.

If anyone would like to volunteer to help, or would like to buy a flag for a future year, contact Paul at the American Legion Post at 696-9160.

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