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Volunteers place American flags next to thousands of gravestones in Hingham

By Greg Lane
Updated May 5, 2020

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On Saturday, members of the Hingham Veterans’ Council and Police Patrolmen’s Union volunteered at Hingham Cemetery to place flags on the gravesites of veterans for Memorial Day, a somber tradition which honors their service.  “As veterans, care of our brothers and sisters who have served and died before us is sacred,” said Janine Suchecki, Vice Chair and Public Affairs Officer for the Hingham Veterans’ Council.  It is “also protected and required by MGL,” she added.

Massachusetts General Law states that towns and cities must maintain their veterans’ gravesites and have flags up for Memorial Day.  Each town and city is required to appoint a resident as a Veterans’ Graves Officer for a term that cannot exceed 5 years.        “(Keith Jermyn) is the Director of Veterans Services for the Town of Hingham,” said Janine.  “One of his duties is he is the Burial Agent and Grave Officer.”

So, dressed in personal protective gear, Director of Veterans’ Services Senior Chief Petty Officer Keith Jermyn, USN, along with his wife Lisa, Veterans’ Council member Mary Ann Blackmur, her husband Stan, Bill Ramsey and members of Patrolmen’s Union, erected American flags in front of seven hundred headstones, including that of Peter Ourish.  Ourish was Hingham’s youngest volunteer in the Civil War.  He signed up at 16, fought in 15 major battles including Gettysburg, Second Bull Run and Fredericksburg, only to die of wounds in a Washington hospital three years later at the young age of 19.

“I was proud to join Veterans Agent Senior Keith Jermyn, Veterans Council Member Mary Ann Blackmur and the Hingham Police Patrolmen’s Association in honoring Hingham Veterans yesterday,” said the Honorable William Ramsey an Army veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  “The Hingham Cemetery is the final resting place of many of our town’s distinguished veterans and honoring their service by ensuring flags are placed on their gravesites is a privilege and obligation, especially in these challenging times.”

Recently, Director of Veterans’ Services Senior Chief Petty Officer Jerymn (USN) placed American flags at the Liberty Plain Cemetery. More than 60% of the graves in the cemetery are of veterans who served in the country’s wars including the American Revolution, Spanish American War and Civil War. This historic Hingham burial ground dates back to 1739.

Between now and Memorial Day, both staff and volunteers from the Veterans’ Council and the Hingham Police Department will carefully place American flags on more than 3,000 graves. Each flag must be centered in front of the headstone and sit exactly one foot away from it.  “Decorating the graves of the fallen and the deceased is one of those quiet acts of respect that takes place every year that I find inspirational and gives me great pride in this town,” said Board of Selectmen Chair Karen Johnson.  “While we had to change the process this year to keep all of the volunteers safe, our commitment to honoring those killed in action and those veteran’s buried here in Hingham was as strong as ever.”

“On Memorial Day, we honor and mourn the military personnel that had died while serving in the United States Armed Services. The men and women of our Armed Services risked their lives around the world every day to keep us safe,” said Mary Ann. “In recognition of their bravery, heroism and sacrifice, it was an honor to make sure their gravestones are suitably kept and cared for.”

Greg Lane can be reached at greg@hinghamcurrent.com.

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