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Needham raises a flag for veterans

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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter

It’s not uncommon to see a few cars parked along the sides of the roads inside St. Mary’s Cemetery in Needham. Many buried in the cemetery are regularly visited by their loved ones, but on May 23, St. Mary’s saw an influx of visitors, and they were not at the cemetery to see any grave in particular.

Instead, these visitors were spending the evening going to hundreds of graves and honoring St. Mary’s veterans with an American flag.

“They do this every year for as far back as I can remember,” said one of Jack Logan’s daughters.

Logan, a former director of Veteran Services for the Town of Needham and Commander of the American Legion Post 2498, passed away last year, and his three daughters and son joined together at the cemetery to carry on the tradition in honor of their father.

The longstanding tradition of placing flags at the veterans’ graves has been carried on by members of Needham’s VFW. However, the public also joins in as a way of thanking those who served.

“It’s hard because a lot of the guys have gotten older. They’re in their 80s, and it’s hard for them to walk around,” one of the siblings began, “so it’s really nice that the [Cub Scouts] are helping.”

Several of the boys of Needham Pack 8 contributed to the evening by carrying bundles of flags and cautiously placing them in the veteran markers, being mindful of not letting the flags touch the ground.

Spearheading the endeavor was Bill Topham, Keeper of Veteran Graves and Master of Ceremonies for Needham.

“They’ve been decorating graves since the Civil War,” he said. “In fact, the Confederates started it. A lot of the graves they decorated in the South were not just Confederate soldiers; a lot of Northerners were buried there.”

In Massachusetts, there is a statute that says all veteran graves are to be decorated on Memorial Day.

“This year we bought 2,700 flags for the two cemeteries, and we’ll use maybe all but 150,” he said. Topham also brought several markers for the graves with damaged markers, so that it could be replaced with a new one.

The Knights of Columbus also visited the cemetery that evening to place flags for brothers buried in St. Mary’s. Led by Needham’s Chris Kent, over a dozen volunteers worked alongside the VFW’s volunteers to place white Knights of Columbus flags at the graves.

“On Monday, when we do the ceremony,” Topham started, “it’s very heartening to see all of the flags. But it’s sad.”

While many emotions were sure to be evoked by the sight of more than two thousand flags in Needham’s cemeteries on Memorial Day, the flag-placing endeavor proved to be just one of many ways community members could get involved in thanking veterans and brothers.

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