About 16,500 American flags adorning the graves of local men and women who served in the armed forces have the stamp "Made in America" affixed to their labels.
The flags have been replaced in the days leading up to the Memorial Day holiday weekend. By Friday, the job should be done, meeting the national deadline for veterans groups and Boy Scouts to replace flags at 144 cemeteries in Lycoming County.
The flags were manufactured at a plant in Gilbertsville, Montgomery County, said George Heiges, executive director of the Lycoming County Department of Veterans Affairs. They were shipped from a company known as FlagZone, he said..
Chad Lower, cubmaster of Pack 12, demonstrates on Saturday afternoon how to change the flags in the Williamsport Cemetery, stressing that no flag should touch the ground. He also taught Scouts and their families how to identify in which war the veterans fought.
To properly cover all of the grave sites, Heiges said he bought 19,000 flags, which cost the county government $8,553. The purchase is authorized by the county commissioners.
"I think it's very important these flags are made in the United States," said county Commissioner Jeff Wheeland. "That's what those men and women fought for and had it not been for their sacrifices we would not be the USA we are today."
Wheeland said it's "even better" that the flags were made in Pennsylvania.
"It's extremely important the citizens of the county honor our veterans with the flags placed on their graves for the Memorial Day weekend," he said.
Working to cover that many graves took many people, including members of various American Legions and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts working with Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts. Some of the widows of veterans also took the time to visit the grave sites and help with the endeavor, Heiges said.
"We always have a few extra flags because we don't know how many veterans are going to die between when the order is placed and Memorial Day," he said.
Last year, 650 county residents who served in the military died, he said. As of Memorial Day, the county had lost slightly more than 200 aging veterans.
"Most of them are World War II and Korean War veterans," Heiges said.
Heiges traveled to 28 of the 144 cemeteries, including small and out of the way places such as plots with one or two graves situated on the side of a mountain slope and in the back of people's yards.
Heiges said he is able to keep track where deceased veterans are by using a computer mapping system combined with books with the plots written down.
Thus far, Heiges claims he has not received word about any missed plots.
"Last year, there was a mix up but this year we changed some things," he said. "This year, we distributed maps and locations to assist the groups."
If there is any veteran buried without a flag, the flags are available at Heiges' office.
"Please come by, but don't take one from another veteran's grave," Heiges said.