The morning couldn’t have been any more beautiful if it had been painted by da Vinci himself. The fog soothed the rows of headstones, illuminated by the sunrise on the horizon. It was 5:45am, and we already knew it was going to be a beautiful day.
As we pulled up to our designated area in a quiet corner of the Fort Snelling National Cemetery, we were greeted by a group of a early-risers eagerly waiting. Everybody was so kind and ready to help with anything they could. This would be our first year in operation, and we had no idea how much our expectations would soon be exceeded. The stream of volunteers walking up the road in our direction was continuous and seemingly unending. Almost 500 friendly faces joined our efforts in honoring the American Heroes laid to rest in the very ground upon which we stood.
Everyone hustled to help. The tables were quickly set up, beverages arranged, and volunteers crowded to add their names to the registration list. Soon, the anticipated flags were pulled out, already divided into sections. The crowds looked to JoAnne for leadership and guidance, and were not disappointed. With confidence she shared the traditions and expectations of American flag etiquette. The group listened intently. This was a privileged effort they were about to experience, and everyone wanted to do it right.
Soon, the wave of volunteers started toward the center of the massive cemetery, walking the scenic path and taking in the breathtaking views. In complete cooperation, the people divided into their designated sections, and began the individual honoring of every headstone the flag count would reach. Every flag, placed one boot length away from the center of the headstone, broke into the ground with care. A sense of appreciation and a moment of gratitude were left behind with each flag.
With nearly 500 sets of hands and feet cooperating on the same mission, it didn’t take long to place 10,000 flags in the name of the fallen. Though the volunteers were prepared to do so much more, they reacted with incredible understanding. Soon, the group dispersed; some leaving to continue on with her day, and others staying to attend the Fort Snelling National Cemetery Ceremony. The beautiful morning was turning into an equally gorgeous afternoon, as thousands of new people gathered for the event. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Brigadier General Joseph Kelly shared inspiring words to the listening ears that hung on their every word. The crowd held hands with one another through a prayer, and tears were shed as the ceremony closed with Taps.
It was an incredible and awe-inspiring beginning to the day; One that we hope to experience with each of you, and newcomers, every year for many to come. We hope that you felt the power of this Memorial Day as much as we did. It is an honor to be a part of this effort, and we are proud to share the honor with each and every one of you.