“Each of these gravestones represents the entire life of a veteran, a life of service,” stated Warren Allen, patriarch of a Coast Guard family and himself an Army veteran. Arlington National Cemetery provides the final resting place for some 400,000 veterans.
On Nov. 6, more than 170 U.S. Coast Guard members, family, and friends volunteered to post hundreds of flags on Coast Guard veterans’ graves across Arlington National Cemetery.
In its 22nd year, this main annual event of USCG Flags Across America honors Coast Guard fallen heroes and teaches Coast Guard heritage to young people. Affirmed Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, “Our veterans will not be forgotten.”
The event is centered on Coast Guard Hill at the U.S. Coast Guard Memorial and radiates throughout Arlington National Cemetery. It is held on a Saturday morning just prior to Veterans Day each year. The Washington, D.C., Chapter of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association (DC CPOA) has organized Flags Across America since its inception. Allen was one of three plank-owners (participants in the first event in 1999) present 22 years later. This year’s event was led by DC CPOA’s MCPO Phil Payne, SCPO Mary Endicott, and CPO Danny Negron. Deputy Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Rob Bushey lent support.
Flags Across America participants assembled outside the cemetery for coffee, donuts, and camaraderie. Then they entered the cemetery, presented a brief history and heritage ceremony, and posted Coast Guard flags (Standards) and American flags (National Ensigns) on graves.
It all began as the childhood dream of Flags Across America founder CWO4 Ed Kruska, USCG (Retired). “Coast Guard Hill is an awe-inspiring place and always has been for me,” he said. “You are surrounded by true Coast Guard greatness – from Admiral Waesche to Admiral Bender and from Commander Stone to Captain Van Boskerck. It’s just amazing.”
More on Coast Guard heroes can be found at: https://www.history.uscg.mil/Browse-by-Topic/History-Heritage-Traditions