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Community places flags at thousands of veterans' graves

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Memorial Day weekend is full of fun spent outside and cookouts with loved ones, but the real reason we observe the holiday is to honor our veterans.

The American Legion’s South Bend post has been placing flags at Saint Joseph Cemetery for over 20 years. Saturday, they – along with other volunteers – placed American flags at 3,000 veterans’ headstones.

“It’s an honor to do this, we get to say thank you for your service, which is - I’m getting goose bumps now - it’s an honor for a lot of people and it means so much,” said Don Ruszkowski, Sons of the American Legion member.

This is Ruszkowski’s 19th year placing flags at Saint Joseph Cemetery for Memorial Day — and this year, they saw one of the best turnouts they’ve ever had.

“Last year we had 10 people, it took us five and a half hours, this year we have roughly 50 people and it should take only about an hour, which is great,” said Ruszkowski.

All of those people, from adults to boys and girls in their scout uniforms, went from headstone to headstone, placing a flag and saying ‘Thank you for your service.’

And with the pandemic we’re living in, Memorial Day will be different for our veterans and can be a lonely time.

“There’s a lot of veterans who live alone. They’re alone in these nursing homes and now we want to say thank you and this is the best way we know how on a day like today, because we can’t go visit them, the family can’t go visit them, and that’s sad,” said Ruszkowski.

While the 3,000 veterans at Saint Joseph Cemetery are all set, Ruszkowski encourages communities throughout Michiana to do the same thing at their local cemeteries.

“Definitely get out, put the flags, go visit the cemetery and just say thank you to your veterans.”

It’s thanks to the American Legion that this tradition continues each year and they hope to encourage more younger veterans to become Legion members and join the family.

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