Members of the National Association for Black Veterans hosted a Memorial Day service Monday and put more than 400 flags at the graves of veterans at Cove Haven Cemetery.
This was the first year the group held a ceremony at Cove Haven, Lexington's black cemetery before desegregation. Jim Thurman, a district commander in the association, said they plan to make it an annual tradition.
Air Force veteran and association member Julia Martin had come out to Cove Haven on Memorial Day for many years to place flags. This year she recruited the rest of her organization to help honor forgotten veterans.
"There's a lot of World War I, World War II, Spanish-American War veterans who are buried here who don't have families to be remembered or to get a flag on their grave," Martin said. "Their contribution was too important to forget."
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Thanks to a project by local boy scouts that mapped out every grave in Cove Haven, Martin was able to pay tribute to a family member — a relative who died in Germany in World War II.
"I knew he was buried here ... I was young when he was buried," Martin said. Finding the grave, she said, "was just amazing, really, it was just fantastic. I put a flag on his grave."
Down the hill from the Memorial Day service was Honeywood Garth. She was putting flowers and flags on the graves of her family for the 70th year in a row.
For her, Memorial Day is a time of obligation and tradition.
Garth, 83, grew up with seven siblings, and her parents instilled in all of them the importance of remembering where they came from.
Now, she brings her son, Doug, and her grandchildren. Doug Garth has spent Memorial Day at cemeteries with his mother for about 40 years, and hopes his children will follow their footsteps.
"We normally go out and put out flowers and do weeding if need be, then we'll get water and brush the stones off," Doug Garth said. "It's just paying homage to your history."