This Memorial Day might not feature the usual parades, speeches, bugling of “Taps,” large gatherings at picnics or first splashes of the season at community pools. But it still focuses on veterans at Resurrection Cemetery, Allentown, where Boy Scouts and Knights of Columbus teamed up to replace old and tattered flags on veterans’ graves in advance of the holiday.
Boy Scout Troop 150 of St. Joseph the Worker Church, Orefield normally takes care of the weathered flags for Memorial Day, but this year they were looking for help due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Through an inquiry from Knights of Columbus member Dave Shellhamer, the local Knights got involved.
John Fitzpatrick, financial secretary of St. Joseph the Worker Council 10921, Orefield and faithful comptroller of Cathedral Assembly 3298, Allentown, contacted his brother Knights in the council and assembly.
The Knights were “happy to help,” said Fitzpatrick, who is also a member of the Knights’ State Council Finance Board.
The Knights joined the Scouts May 21 to replace 1,500 flags. The event lends itself to social distancing with the workers scattering throughout the cemetery, but masks were requested just in case.
The restrictions were not the biggest challenge, said Fitzpatrick. “It was more difficult this year because of the uncertainty of whether flags would be available – thank you VFW! – and whether we could get enough volunteers.” VFW stands for Veterans of Foreign Wars.
This was the Knights’ first year assisting the Scouts for Memorial Day. However, they help replace flags in disrepair before “Wreaths Across America” in December, which attempts to place a wreath on every veteran’s grave for Christmas.
“We not only help with the ceremony itself, but clean up as well, and with a physical count later this summer to verify the number of veterans buried there so we have an accurate wreath count,” said Fitzpatrick.
“This is what the Knights are all about. We have a wonderful program, Faith in Action, that guides us to help our families, parishes and communities. The Knights also instituted Leave No Neighbor Behind, which has been a great resource during this crisis. It could not have come at a better time.”
Fitzpatrick is also cognizant of the need to acknowledge the sacrifice of the veterans. “I come from a family of veterans, including myself. My dad joined before he was 17 and served in the Navy during World War II. I lost two uncles in World War II and another while serving in the Air Force in the early ’50s. My son Sean is the fourth generation to serve.”
The old flags collected will be properly disposed of on Flag Day, June 14.
Resurrection is one of two Diocese of Allentown cemeteries. The other is Holy Saviour in Bethlehem. For more information, go to www.allentowndiocesecemeteries.org.