Memorial Day

Volunteers Honor Fallen War Heroes With Flowers, Plaques at Arlington National Cemetery

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A gray day in the D.C. area didn't stop volunteers from honoring the nation's fallen war heroes at Arlington National Cemetery Sunday.

Memorial Day Flowers Foundation started in 2011 when Ramiro Penaherrera was working in South America, but his heart was stateside.

“Her brother-in-law and I were talking, and I said, ‘What can we do to honor those who served our country?’” Penaherrera said.

He’s in the floral business, so he planted the idea of saying thank you with roses.

What began with 10,000 roses has since bloomed to more than 100,000 donated flowers being refrigerated and flown in.

Some of the flowers are handed to families to lay by their loved ones. Last year, the pandemic made that the only option.

Another pandemic workaround found a niche in this year’s observance: flag plaques.

“Volunteers who are coming into Arlington Cemetery to visit graves leave a plaque, a flag plaque, and take a photograph and then share that photograph on social media,” said Emily Domenech of The Honor Project.

It started last year for families who couldn’t get to Arlington because of travel restrictions or health concerns.

“So I just tweeted and said, ‘Hey, I’ll visit a grave for you if you want and send you a picture,’ thinking of a handful of friends of mine, and I got hundreds of responses,” Domenech said.

Hundreds of volunteers with the Travis Manion Foundation, a veterans help organization, are just some of those who set out across the hallowed grounds to see that flags and flowers and reverence carry the holiday’s observance.

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