By Alyssa Borelli, Contributing Writer
Southborough – Last year’s winter gusts that blew through New England ended up displacing hundreds of flags placed in memoriam of veterans laid to rest across Southborough’s cemeteries. Steve Whynot, Southborough’s veterans’ graves officer, joined by a team of local veterans and members of the town’s Boy Scout troup, walked the cemetery in the frigid temperatures to collect and replace all flags that had been displaced.
“Because it was the middle of winter, replacing them, at the time, was not prudent,” Whynot said, but he has made it his mission to ensure that every veteran who has been laid to rest in the cemeteries across Southborough are honored for their service with an American flag at all times.
Throughout the year, Whynot, a retired Navy/Coast Guard veteran, will pass through the cemetery to replace flags that have been blown down, or that have been damaged during landscaping efforts throughout the year.
“If a flag holder has been damaged or bent, I can usually bend it back into shape, so that the flag stands proud – not leaning,” he said.
Oftentimes, he is contacted by friends and family members to alert him that a specific gravesite is missing a flag; he will immediately locate the veteran’s gravesite, and ensure a flag is properly placed.
“I’ll do a little bit of manicuring,” he added. “As grass encroaches on the veteran’s grave marker, I’ll trim it back, so that the veteran’s marker is exposed, and visitors to the cemetery are then able to read the name of the person.”
Whynot also places flags on two bridges in town named after Southborough residents, Osgood T. Hadley, a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient, and Robert R. Foley, the only resident of Southborough lost in the Vietnam War.
Whynot also helps coordinate Southborough’s Memorial Day program with Veterans Services Officer John Wilson, organizing a team of volunteers to replace the more than 900 gravesites with new flags – rain or shine.
“During the time when the flags are replaced, I ask those participating to take time and read the name of the person they are placing the flag for; to acknowledge that veteran for just a few seconds, to remember that they served and to honor their service,” said Whynot. “It keeps that veteran from not being forgotten.”
On a clear spring day, those driving along Route 85 in Southborough will notice the cemetery dotted with American flags proudly waving in the breeze, something that Whynot takes tremendous pride in.
“The importance to give back to my fellow veterans and ensure they are respectfully honored is beyond value to me,” he said.
Photos/courtesy Steve Whynot