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Honoring Our Veterans

Avenue of Flags at Woodlawn National Cemetery

For the first time in many years, the entrance to Elmira's Woodlawn National Cemetery is lined with flagpoles.

Beginning Veterans Day 2009, U.S. flags that once draped the coffins of military veterans who are buried there will hang from those poles for the first time, and they will also be displayed on other special occasions.

The 14 aluminum poles are there thanks to Roger TenEyck and the many people who donated to his "Avenue of Flags" project over the past year or so. The poles line the cemetery's entrance off Davis Street.

"I noticed there were no flagpoles to fly the veterans' flags on," TenEyck said. "I just couldn't imagine that at a national cemetery. That's just kind of sad."

Walter Baroody, director of the cemetery, said Woodlawn's main entrance was lined with flagpoles in the 1970s, but only on special occasions. He said the poles, which were temporary and had to be put up and taken down at each use, deteriorated over time.

Baroody said of the new display of 25-foot poles: "It gives honor and pays tribute to the veterans that have chosen the Woodlawn National Cemetery as their final resting spot. And it gives the community a great deal of pride to come down through and see all the flags."

Each flag that will hang from a pole once covered the coffin of a veteran at a burial service at the cemetery, Baroody said.

The flags are presented to family members at the conclusion of the services, and Baroody said some people chose to donate them to the cemetery.

Woodlawn, where about 9,000 veterans are buried, now has nearly 100 flags, he said.

A random few -- they aren't identified by the veterans' names -- will hang from the new poles each year on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and other special occasions.

When the Veterans" Administration denied his request for funding several years ago , TenEyck started his own campaign in August 2008 to raise the necessary funds. In time, he received a little over $20,000 in donations.

Expenses came to around $18,000 and would have been higher except that Edger Enterprises, a general contractor in Elmira Heights, installed the poles for free.

TenEyck said the surplus money will go toward maintenance.

The owner of James D. Barrett Funeral Home in Elmira, TenEyck said he's not a veteran himself but comes from "a family of veterans."

"It's the least we could do as a community to recognize our local veterans," he said.

"I feel like that flag is the most beautiful flag there is. When I go by this cemetery now, it'll have a little extra meaning for me," said TenEyck.

TenEyck had hoped to have the flags up by Memorial Day 2009, but the project was delayed awaiting approval from the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery Administration.

Now that the "Avenue of Flags" project is complete, TenEyck intends to begin work on additional projects to salute our veterans.


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