Volunteers to Place 77,000 Flags Saturday at Veterans Cemetery in Bourne

BOURNE – Volunteers will gather Saturday at the Massachusetts National Veterans Cemetery in Bourne to place 77,000 flags on all the graves for Memorial Day.

Operation Flags for Vets will get underway at 10 a.m. with a short ceremony at the flagpole at the end of the cemetery’s Avenue of Flags with the placement of the flags to follow.

Orgnanizer Paul Monti is amazed at how much the effort has grown since 2011.

“We now have upwards of 5,000 people who show up to do the graves,” Monti said.

Volunteers of all ages, races and religions participate including World War II veterans in their 90s.

“We have entire families – grandparents, parents and their kids. We have motorcycle groups that come down, high school teams, cub scouts and girl scouts,” Monti said. “It’s an amazing mix of people who come and all they want to do is honor those who have given us our freedom.”

Monti said more volunteers are always welcome.

“They don’t have to register. They don’t have to do anything but show up and be respectful to those who have served the country,” he said.

Volunteers are asked to bring a long-handled screwdriver to help make starter holes for the flags.

Monti created Operation Flags for Vets to honor his son SFC Jared Monti, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2006 and the recipient of the Medal of Honor.

“I’m on my 12th year of losing him now and it’s just like yesterday,” Monti said.

Jared was killed on his third attempt to rescue a fellow serviceman who was wounded.

Monti went to honor his son on Veterans Day of that year with a flag at his gravestone at the cemetery and was surprised to see no flags were planted at the cemetery.

He talked with an administrator of the facility to find out why, as all veterans graves require flags on Veterans Day under state law.

“I was told that flags were not allowed that I was not in Massachusetts I was standing on federal ground,” Monti said. “And their rule was no flags on the graves because they interfered with maintenance of the cemetery.”

That did not sit well with Monti, who spent more than four years pursuing a change of legislation to allow flags on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

After four and a half years Monti received a letter giving permission to flag all the graves provided that his organization buy, place, remove and store all the flags.

Monti said Jared would be proud of the work he has done with Operation Flags for Vets to honor those who have served.

“He’s probably looking down at dear old dad saying, ‘Dad, you did a good thing,’” Monti said.

Volunteers are also needed to remove the flags from the cemetery on Sunday, June 3 at 10 a.m.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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