John and Lynne Schlaht of Creston stand side-by-side at Graceland Cemetery nearly one decade ago. It is morning. The grass below their feet is freshly cut, a little wet, and in the stillness of the cemetery the most recognizeable sounds are American flags flapping in the wind.
It’s Memorial Day.
Like past years, the Schlahts are attending the Memorial Day program at Graceland Cemetery. A small group of people gather with them. The group says the Pledge of Allegiance together and listens to the keynote speaker.
“We’ve always gone out to the cemetery on Memorial Day,” Lynne said. “We’re both retired now, but I was a librarian and John is a longtime social studies teacher in Creston, so we’re both fascinated with history — especially American history — and cemeteries have so many life stories.”
A trumpeter playing taps concluded the program at Graceland Cemetery. The group in attendance scattered in different directions to visit loved ones.
“After the program, we always wander around the cemetery,” John said. “We don’t have any family in Graceland Cemetery, but we do have friends. As we wandered around, that particular year we began noticing many veterans didn’t have flowers on their graves.”
Lynne recalls the feeling that gave them both.
“It was really sad to see nothing on their graves,” she said. “They probably don’t have any family that live in the Creston area anymore.”
So, from that day forward, the Schlahts decided to honor at least some of those veterans each year by placing flowers next to their grave.
“We just thought it would be a nice gesture to honor and thank them on Memorial Day,” John said. “All of them sacrificed something for this country. ... After we placed flowers the first year, we wanted and felt like we needed to do it again the next year.”
So, that’s what they’ve done.
Each year Lynne finds enough red, white and blue artificial flowers to make 35 to 40 bouquets. She finds the flowers at garage sales, local shops and retail stores. Then, after the program on Memorial Day, they select random veteran’s graves to place the bouquets on.
“We try and remember where we were the year before,” Lynne said, “so we don’t have repeats, but I know we miss some. I’d be wonderful if others wanted to do this too, and all veterans graves could have flowers.”
Lynne said there are a lot of non-veteran graves that don’t have flowers either.
“Someone could even go beyond veterans,” she said, “because there are a lot of families that have moved away and there is nobody around anymore to put flowers on their graves. It would be a nice gesture. It’s nice to be remembered.”