ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. — With Memorial Day coming up, dozens of volunteers placed flags at the Rock Island National Cemetery, paying respects to the fallen service members.
Volunteers split up with custom tools, which make holes in the ground the proper distance from headstones. Flags were set at over 36,000 graves, with volunteers of all ages coming together.
"My daughter was six years old and we were looking for activities to get into volunteering," mother and veteran Kassandra McKown said. "A friend of ours does this yearly and she said 'come on out with us.'"
For McKown, volunteering time at the cemetery is an important lesson for her daughter Victoria.
"We always try to make sure that they have that 'give back' mentality as they grow older, so that they have that when they become adults," McKown said.
Victoria started volunteering with the flag placing in 2017, and is now 11 years old. "I love volunteering, whatever I do," she said. "For Christmas, instead of asking for gifts for myself, I asked for pet supplies to donate to the animal shelters, or I volunteer at the food bank."
For Victoria, that passion for helping the community continues into helping the cemetery.
"They sacrifice their life for us, so it's pretty important that people are here and it's not just one or two people that are here," Victoria said.
Victoria's friend, 13-year-old Abigail Hauser has volunteered since she was very young, at other cemeteries in Kansas and Missouri as well.
"When I was younger, people told me that kids couldn't make a difference — so I love just being able to go out and make a difference for something that's so close to home, because my family was in the military," Hauser said. "I love seeing so many different people in so many different generations coming and honoring."
The Rock Island Arsenal's garrison commander, Col. Dan Mitchell said he doesn't take the generosity of the community for granted.
"I think it's powerful for parents, grandparents, to pass that meaning on to the next generation — to talk to them about what's the significance of this cemetery and of the people who are buried here," Col. Mitchell said.
The flags were placed ahead of the Memorial Day Ceremony, which is Monday, May 29 at 10:45 a.m., at the Rock Island National Cemetery. Members of the public are welcome to attend.
Notes from the Rock Island National Cemetery on parking:
Main parking will be at the Memorial Park parking lot off East Street across from Building 102.
There will be no parking at the cemetery for this ceremony except for individuals who are wheelchair bound.
Parking for all others will be behind Memorial Park in the large lot. Buses will be transporting people from the parking lot to the cemetery and will run 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Visitors should arrive early to ensure enough time to park their vehicles and be transported to the cemetery. Memorial Park is located off of the main Island road, Rodman Avenue at the corner of East Street. For more information, call 309-782-2094.