Westborough flag planting marks push to honor local veterans

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Photo/submitted
Volunteers help install flags to honor fallen veterans in Westborough.

By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor

WESTBOROUGH – Hundreds of flags now wave by the graves of Westborough’s heroes after members of the Westborough Veterans Advisory Board worked with a handful of volunteers to fulfill part of an annual tradition. 

Working early on May 1, the Advisory Board fanned out across St. Luke’s Cemetery, Pine Grove Cemetery, the Midland Cemetery in town as well as Westborough’s Downtown Cemetary across from Town Hall. 

Flags in hand, they worked to mark individual graves of local veterans. 

“Creating this and maintaining this awareness throughout the year is something that we as the board are committed to do,” Veterans Services Officer John Gallinaugh told the Community Advocate when discussing his group’s general mission.

The Advisory Board had help in this latest effort. 

Twenty five volunteers from the Westborough High School National Honor Society worked at each of their town’s cemeteries. Members of the Westborough Rotary Club jumped in to help at Pine Grove Cemetery. And a handful of CCD students from St. Luke’s volunteered at their church’s cemetery.

The Veterans Advisory Board remains grateful for that outpouring of support. 

“They’re very enthusiastic about supporting the different projects that we have throughout the year,” Gallinaugh said of volunteers. 

As many volunteers as the board had at its disposal, Gallinaugh suggested there could have been more. 

In organizing this year’s flag planting initiative, he said he and his colleagues kept COVID-19 concerns in mind, limiting volunteers to a “reasonable number.” This allowed for social distancing on top of safe mask-wearing protocols. 

Beyond that, the pandemic has disrupted other elements of this year’s ceremonies. 

The board normally leads Memorial Day parades to local cemeteries and war memorials. Those were held virtually last year due to COVID-19 and will run in a similar format this year. 

Still, Gallinaugh said he’s hoping to preserve some of the traditional solemnities like the playing of Taps, a three-volley salute, acapella renditions of patriotic songs and the reading of Logan’s Orders.

“We’ll try to replicate as much as we can the feelings that will take place in a non-COVID environment,” he said.

With a pandemic or without one, this time of year matters to people like Gallinaugh and the Veterans Advisory Board. 

As the seasons turn, he says he and his fellow board members remain hard at work reminding area residents of the sacrifices their ancestors have made as well as the risks some of their neighbors may be taking on to this day.

“We have a volunteer [military] now,” he said. “It represents a very small percentage of the US population. We think it’s very important to keep the awareness of the sacrifice that active duty personnel have done over the years.”