May 27, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff WriterGary Letchworth showed up early Saturday morning to place American flags on the graves of fallen soldiers because he loves his country.
The post commander for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3628 and former Marine who served in the Vietnam War was one of many who volunteered time to decorate the tombstones at Mount View Cemetery for the Memorial Day holiday.
"Memorial Day is an important holiday to remember those who have served for our country," Letchworth said. "I think it is important for the community to understand that we celebrate this holiday because people fought and died for our country."
Bob Belding distributed 1,402 flags to those who came and gave their time to decorate the graves of veterans.
The volunteers were instructed to place the flags on the left-hand side of the gravestones and paired off to different sections of the cemetery.
Riverton resident Jen Lang said placing flags was the least she could for the fallen soldiers who fought for her freedom.
"I think a lot of people attribute Memorial Day to picnics, and the start of summer and generally don't know why we celebrate, but the holiday is about so much more," Lang said.
Memorial Day originally was called Decoration Day and started after the Civil War to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the Civil War. In 2000, congress established the National Moment of Remembrance where Americans are asked to pause at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to remember those who died in service to the U.S.
Mandi Belding has been placing flags at the cemetery for over eight years and brought her family out to teach them the importance of the holiday.
"I want my kids to understand what Memorial Day means and get them trained so that when I am not around they will continue to participate in this tradition," Belding said.
After decorating in Riverton, Belding planned to take her family to Worland where her mom is buried and spend the holiday remembering family members.
U.S. Navy veteran Pat Lawson, who served from 1960-1962, said her memories of Memorial Day stem back to when she was a little girl.
"My family called it Decoration Day, and it was a big family effort of decorating the graves and paying respects to family members," Lawson said. "I think as a child it was more of a tradition but after serving in the Navy it took on a whole new meeting."
Lawson thinks the meaning of the holiday is being lost to the younger generation and hopes more families will instill moral values so the meaning of Memorial Day is adequately understood.
"We have a real challenge to make sure that our future generation understands the importance of remembering those who served and are serving for our country," Lawson said.
Lynette Jeffres partnered with Lawson. and together the two spent the morning placing flags in their assigned section.
"It is very emotional for me when you stand back and look at all of the flags marking the veterans," Jeffres said. "So many have sacrificed their lives for this country and showing up on a Saturday morning to honor them is really the least I could do."
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