The cold wind and rain Thursday couldn’t keep a small group of men and women from their mission at Riverview Cemetery in Seymour.

Armed with hundreds of American flags, they spent the dreary morning honoring and remembering deceased veterans by marking each and every grave with a flag for Memorial Day on Monday.

The flags are a tradition for American Legion Post 89 members who volunteer for the job, which they consider an honor.

Besides Riverview, the legion also covers the old Seymour City Cemetery, while other groups canvas big and little cemeteries all across the county so every veteran is remembered and honored for their service.

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Legion Commander Odas Higginbotham said the flags are just a small token of appreciation for all of the men and women who served in the military and died, especially those who fought and died during times of war.

“They sacrificed their lives for our country,” he said. “This is the least we can do out of respect for their service.”

Higginbotham served in the U.S. Navy from 1972 to 1975 during the end of the Vietnam War era.

He isn’t sure exactly how many flags they place, but he knows it’s many.

“I’d say it will be up in the thousands when we’re done,” he said.

There are quite a few veterans he knew that are buried at the cemetery, he said.

It’s not always easy to find all of the graves, as some of the headstones date back more than 150 years to the Civil War. They are covered in moss, and many are so old they are crumbling.

The volunteers go section by section and walk up and down the rows of headstones, looking at each one. If they do miss a grave by accident, family members can request a flag by contacting the legion.

At 11 a.m. Monday, the legion will conduct its annual Memorial Day ceremony along Soldiers Row near the entrance to Riverview Cemetery. If it’s raining, the ceremony will be moved to the legion annex on West Second Street.

Higginbotham will lead that ceremony.

Putting out the flags this year was a new experience for legion member Carl Hartwell, who is assisting Higginbotham in his duties.

He said Memorial Day is about taking the time to show respect for the past and those loved ones who have died. He served in the U.S. Army National Guard at Camp Atterbury in the 1970s during the Vietnam War era.

“My mom and dad used to take us to go to graves and put flowers on them and clean them off this time of the year, and we’d have time to visit family,” he said. “We’re doing it for the vets because they served their country so we could be able to do this.”

For Hubert Gregory, there is one special grave at Riverview that he marks with a flag and spends more time at than any other grave — his daughter’s.

Mary Gregory served in the military in the early 1990s and died of breast cancer at the age of 33.

“I think it’s a real honor,” he said of placing the flag. “She was tough.”

Gregory also served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1968 during the Vietnam War era and was stationed in Germany. He then joined the National Guard and served until 1991.

Legion member Russell Box, a Vietnam War veteran, volunteers to help put out flags for Memorial Day and is a member of the honor guard. He served in the Army and the National Guard for 20 years total.

He said both activities bring him “a little bit of peace.”

“To honor these guys is heartwarming,” he said.

If you go

The public is invited to attend Memorial Day services planned around Jackson County.

Brownstown: 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Fairview Cemetery, 610 N. High St.

Crothersville: 11 a.m. Monday at Crothersville Cemetery, corner of South County Road 1000E and East County Road 600S.

Seymour: 11 a.m. Monday at Riverview Cemetery, 1603 Shields Ave., or at the American Legion Annex on West Second Street if it’s raining.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.