It’s Memorial Day, the “unofficial” start of summer.
A weekend when many of us gather with buddies and hit the beach, and the barbecues and the beers.
But at Rolling Green Cemetery in Lower Allen Township, the true meaning of the day is understood.
Though it has green in its name, it’s got red, white and blue in its game this weekend.
There are huge flags greeting visitors on the ride into the facility and little ones all over its vast expanse.
In this cemetery, patriotism never dies.
“At last count, we had over 4,700 veterans here at Rolling Green,” said manager Sherry Blumanstock.
The grave sites of every military member is adorned with a flag, which is fitting because there are people resting here who died fighting for it.
“Oh, yes,” says Blumanstock. “Many of them, many.”
The little flags stood at attention at every grave site with a steady breeze blowing Friday afternoon.
“Just how many soldiers that we have buried in here, it’s overwhelming.” said Brian Spagnoletti, commander of the Lower Allen VFW.
“It’s breathtaking,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Snelson of the U.S. Air Force of the large field of flapping flags, each representing a deceased veteran. “It’s also humbling and to a degree inspiring.”
Snelson, a pilot, flew the first C-17 over Baghdad. He was the keynote speaker at Friday’s Memorial Day ceremony.
It featured a wreath laying and the recitation of the World War I poem, “In Flanders Field.”
There was a 21 gun salute that induced a reflexive shudder in the crowd and a haunting version of “Taps.”
It is standard fare on such a day, but nonetheless powerful. The ceremony struck the perfect tone and painted the perfect picture of what Memorial Day is about.
But only a handful bothered to show up and admire it, which begs the question: do Americans still appreciate Memorial Day?
“I don’t think they do,” said Fred Roller, commander of the New Cumberland VFW. “I think there’s probably young people growing up who just think it’s the first day of summer, or for cookouts or the swimming pool is opening up.”
Richard Selby attended the service. He served in the Air Force from 1951-55.
“Not as much as they used to, sadly,” Selby said. “Veterans are being forgotten more every year.”
But there is hope and it can be found in a 37-year-old lieutenant colonel whose young daughters frolicked among the flags.
Steve Snelson never forgets… to remember.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of the people who served before me,” Snelson said after the ceremony. “And I try to live in their shadow and do them honor and pass that along to my children as well.”