Members of VFW Post 308, Ladies Auxiliary, and volunteers gathered at the Village Cemetery on Elm Street early Wednesday morning, May 21, before fanning out across 11 local cemeteries to replace flags marking the graves of Newtown veterans. Prior to setting out, they were joined by State Representative Mitch Bolinsky for a brief ceremony honoring Vietnam Army veteran Eric George Blantin.
According to James Rebman, VFW Commander, Warrant Officer Blantin is the last Newtown veteran known to have died in action, November 20, 1969. While his grave has always had an American flag posted next to it, this year the VFW provided a special brass stanchion to the site denoting his service in Vietnam.
Robert Arnold, captain of the VFW Honor Guard, and Commander Rebman offered thanks to all service people who have died in service to this country. “We honor you with this final salute,” said Captain Arnold, preceding the playing of Taps.
The volunteers expected to replace 1,055 flags on graves at the Newtown cemeteries before the end of the afternoon on Wednesday, as well as at the Sailors and Soldiers Memorial on Main Street. The small Bradley Road and Flat Swamp Road cemeteries have two flags places at their entrances, to honor any veterans buried within the ancient graveyards, said Captain Arnold. Every year, the VFW purchases new flags and replaces the ones from the previous year, just before Memorial Day weekend.
On June 14, a flag ceremony is held at the VFW Post 308 on Tinkerfield Road, for the proper disposal of flags. Residents can leave retired American flags in the red, white, and blue drop off box located at the VFW Post, at any time, and members will see that they are disposed of with honor.