AUSTIN, Texas -- It wasn't more than just a few years ago that on Veterans Day, there were no flags marking the thousands of gravesites at the Texas State Cemetery. A group of volunteers is committed to making sure that doesn't happen again.
- Flags being placed at Texas State Cemetery for Veterans Day
- Volunteers include children, parents
- Flags to be removed Sunday
"When those gates open tomorrow and people start touring this cemetery, every grave will be marked with a flag," Jeremy Brooks, an Iraq War veteran, told volunteers on Sunday.
Brooks is a member of Wreaths Across America and Veterans Flags & Flowers, whose mission is to show respect for fallen veterans one flag, one wreath, one floral arrangement at a time.
Several service organizations, first responders and just everyday people answered the call put out online asking for volunteers to show up at the state cemetery off Navasota in Austin. Each volunteer was given five flags at a time, encouraged not just to place a flag by each veteran's headstone, but actually read what the headstone said.
"Everybody dies twice - the one where your heart stops beating and you're declared dead - that's the first time you die," said Brooks. "The second time you die is the last time somebody says your name. The day nobody speaks your name anymore, that's considered the second time you die. Don't ever let a veteran die twice."
Many of the volunteers were kids, some just toddlers, with parents using the opportunity to teach their children about the sacrifices made by soldiers that came before them. For others like Air Force Master Sergeant Celeste Montellano, the mission to plant flags for veterans was a little more personal. She drove from the Fort Worth area to meet her boyfriend who's stationed in Houston to volunteer in Austin for the day. Montellano said she went to high school with a veteran who paid the ultimate price while serving overseas. She too said it was important for her and her boyfriend to stop and take a good look at the name on each grave marker.
"Sometimes it's easy, we just see so many out here to just walk around and pass by," said Montellano. "But you know, each one is a person with a family and loved ones - so it's really important to stop and really think of the individual."
In order to be respectful of both the cemetery grounds and flags they planted, Brooks said next Sunday they'll be removing and collecting the flags planted this past weekend, so they can use them again next year. Brooks said any volunteer help for removing the flags would be greatly appreciated.