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Memorial Day "A Decoration Day"

106th Rescue Wing medical technician Staff Sgt. Rendal-Sestoso and her daughter placing a small American flag by a gravestone at Calverton National Cemetery in commemoration of Memorial Day.

106th Rescue Wing members and more than 6,700 people decorated gravestones with small American flags at Calverton National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend, May 23rd 2015.

106th Rescue Wing medical technician Staff Sgt. Rendal-Sestoso and her daughter placing a small American flag by a gravestone at Calverton National Cemetery in commemoration of Memorial Day. 106th Rescue Wing members and more than 6,700 people decorated gravestones with small American flags at Calverton National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend, May 23rd 2015.

106th Medical Group members and more than 6,700 people decorate gravestones with small American flags at Calverton National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend, May 23rd 2015.

106th Medical Group members and more than 6,700 people decorate gravestones with small American flags at Calverton National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend, May 23rd 2015.

5/23/15 -- Calverton, NY - 106th Rescue Wing members and more than 6,700 people decorated gravestones with small American flags at Calverton National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend, May 23rd 2015.

More than 6,700 people decorated gravestones with small American flags at Calverton National Cemetery in commemoration of Memorial Day on Saturday, May 23rd 2015.  This was the 21st Anniversary of the Flag Placement and it is always done on the Saturday before Memorial Day "rain or shine".  As many as 20 different companies and organizations from Long Island NY helped support the effort, led by the Suffolk County Scouts troops.

The volunteers waited until 0930 and then headed to the gravesites to make sure every one of the graves were decorated.  In total, more than 200,000 flags were placed within one hour.  Volunteers and their families drove from as far away as New York City to honor and remember those who have died in service of the United States of America.

Five 106th Rescue Wing members were among those who volunteered. Tech. Sgt. Timothy Frigano of the 106th Medical Group wore his Class A uniform with pride at the "Thank You Ceremony" dedicated to all the volunteers.  Before the ceremony, he was part of the flag placing, working together with Senior Airman Jessica Klein to make sure the flags were intact.  Senior Airman Lorena Diaz and Airman 1st Class Caitlin Burkhardt made sure that each flag was precisely placed in the center, one inch away from the gravestone.  Staff Sgt. Elisha Rendal-Sestoso brought her two-year-old daughter with her to pay their respects to the fallen.

"Placing the flags at the cemetery was one of the most moving things that I have done" stated Burkhardt, who was accompanied by her brother David, a Midshipman at the US Merchant Marine Academy who is studying engineering. "We also visited our uncle grave site and it was the first time my brother was ever speechless."

Memorial Day was originally called "Decoration Day".  It was born after the Civil War and officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11  "...for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country...".  In 2000, to help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed, in which it asks that at 1500 all Americans "voluntarily pause what they are doing for a moment of silence".

Today, many Americans observe "Memorial Day" as a holiday, but few know the true meaning of this day.  They enjoy the day off, but they have forgotten why.  Most people hardly remember that many servicemen provided for our freedom and that so many died in service to our country.  Volunteering to decorate gravestones at a National Cemetery is the least we can do and a way to remind everyone of the importance of this day and to give thanks to those that made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.