HUNTERSVILLE – Just before Christmas, it was cold and a little windy, but instead of staying at home curled up with hot chocolate, a trio of Huntersville residents traveled to local cemeteries to honor the lives of area veterans.
Ronnie Craig, Ed McCutcheon and Robert Mullens carried dozens of 8-by-12-inch American flags on 22-inch wooden pegs, perfectly-sized to wave in the cool pre-Christmas breeze.
One after another, the three men placed the flags on the graves of veterans, some of them well-kept and attended to, some abandoned and forlorn. At First Baptist, Mt. Olive AME, Davidson Family Burial Ground and at Gilead Presbyterian Church, the trio placed 159 flags on veteran graves.
“I really remember this growing up,” Craig said. “I remember going with my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and this was something people just did.”
Craig, a Navy veteran, met his wife in the service. He was a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps, and his wife Joanne was a military nurse in Newport.
But it wasn’t his tenure in the military that cemented the value he placed on the American flag.
“Everyone remembers the Kennedy funeral,” he said. “I was 4. I remember his death and the flag that was placed on his coffin. That captivated the nation. And I knew that flag was pretty darn important.”
Growing up, he and his family placed flags on veteran graves on Memorial Day and Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day. It was his decision to add the Christmas tradition.
It wasn’t easy to find more than 100 flags in one place, but the management team at Lowe’s in Huntesville was able to help Craig secure enough flags for his goal to cover the handful of local cemeteries.
“I bought every flag they had,” Craig said.
The management team, including merchandising manager Jacob Rollings and store manager Chad DeCasas, initially only had 50 on hand but were able to obtain more before the holiday and offer them at a discount.
For Craig, he hopes the flag-laying inspires others to think about veterans.
“I would really like to get people interested in doing this again,” he said.