Almost 90 years ago, a tradition began in Ocean County to honor Memorial Day with more than summer kick-off events. Volunteers would even go further than a parade and ceremonies to honor Memorial Day.
For Memorial Day in Ocean County, what Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little called a "small army of volunteers" began this month to decorate nearly 15,000 graves.
Each of the graves are marked with a small American flag, to honor service in the U.S. military.
“Everyone wants to enjoy a three-day weekend, but I hope our residents will take the time to honor both our fallen veterans and those brave servicemen and women now defending our nation overseas,” said Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little in a release.
The volunteer project began in the 1920s, and honored those from Ocean County who died in such wars as World War I, the Civil War and the American Revolution.
Toms River has several historic cemeteries where American Revolution soldiers are buried, including several plots on Washington and Hooper Avenue.
“We’ve been doing this since the 1920s and it’s a fitting way to remember those who have given so much for their nation,” Little said. “Anyone who visits a cemetery this weekend and sees a flag will know a brave man or woman lies in that grave.”
Among those buried in Ocean County are residents who died in the line of duty. To date, 12 county residents have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This past year, three Ocean County residents were killed in the line of duty: Army Sgt. James W. Harvey II of Toms River, Marine Corporal Nicholas S. Ott of Manchester and Army Sgt. John A. Lyons of Seaside Park. Each had their names added to the county’s Hero’s Memorial.
“These men exemplify all that is honorable about our veterans,” Little said. “Their service and sacrifice was great, but they asked for little in return. On this Memorial Day, I ask that we pay tribute to them and all of our fallen heroes.”