Tuesday, 25 May 2021 13:36

Flags placed on graves of Richmond County vets

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Evie Hutchinson places a U.S. flag at the grave of a Richmond County veteran Tuesday at Eastside Cemetery. See more photos on the RO's Facebook page. Evie Hutchinson places a U.S. flag at the grave of a Richmond County veteran Tuesday at Eastside Cemetery. See more photos on the RO's Facebook page. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — A team of volunteers on Tuesday placed flags on the graves of Richmond County residents who served in the armed forces who have since passed away ahead of Memorial Day.


It’s an annual tradition that was started more than 20 years ago by the late Jimmy Brigman, a veteran himself. 

Prior to Brigman’s death, Air Force veteran Ed O’Neal took over, buying flags and organizing volunteers to set them out.

O’Neal said he decided to bring the effort under the banner of AMVETS Post 316.

The challenge over the past two years, O’Neal said, is that they haven’t been able to do as much fundraising to purchase flags due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So they decided to just put out flags at one cemetery.

Next year, O’Neal hopes they’ll be able to go back to placing flags at cemeteries across the county.

O’Neal said he was thankful for the volunteers because it’s “a lot of work.”

Sharon Hutchinson and daughter Evie got a head start at Eastside Cemetery while O’Neal waited for the other volunteers.

Among the volunteers were several members of the Richmond Senior High School Beta Club: Meghan McKenzie, Jude howard, Caleb Talton, Taylor Young, Savannah Jordan, Lauren Hudson, Stephanie Alvarado and Ashley Murphy.

Lack of recent rain left the ground around the graves difficult to post the flags, so they had to make the holes with a screwdriver.

Timothy Chavis, a Marine Corps veteran, also volunteered. Having recently moved back to Richmond County, Chavis said he helped with similar efforts in Lincoln County and the Charlotte area.

“I think everyone should do it, just to read the headstones,” Chavis said.

One of those was that of Pvt. Walter Steele Covington Jr., who served in the Army during the battles of Brest and Huertgen Forest and was killed in action on Dec. 9, 1944 in Vossenack, Germany. Covington was buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery in Henri Chapelle, Belgium.

The graves included mostly veterans of World War II, in addition to those who served in Korea and Vietnam.

More than 20 local veterans have passed away since March 1.

There will be a Memorial Day Ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park.