Despite a chance of storms in coming days, Hays resident Stan Dreiling says the volunteers from Hays VFW Post 9076 will put little American flags on the graves of the 1,500 Ellis County veterans buried in the city and Catholic cemeteries in town.
“We’ve been doing it since 1974,” Dreiling said. “We haven’t missed a Memorial Day yet; we’ll do it rain or shine.”
The cemeteries will be ready, said City of Hays parks director Jeff Boyle on Thursday afternoon.
“We’re in full force,” Boyle said of his staff. “Every mower that we own is operating right now.”
Volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hays Post 9076, 2106 Vine St., planned to start placing the cemetery flags at 9 a.m. Friday. Dreiling, a Vietnam veteran, says the number of volunteers helping is dwindling, so the task takes about three hours or so now.
“Hopefully there will be eight to 10 guys,” he said. The flags will remain in place until around 4 p.m. Monday, when the volunteers will gather them back up.
“We used to do them on Memorial Day, but it takes too long and we don’t have enough help,” Dreiling said, noting the local veterans involved with the VFW are getting older.
“Since 1974 up until today, we’ve had over 1,300 funerals,” he said, adding “Mr. Ed Pfannenstiel, we buried him today.”
In 2016, there were still 20 World War II veterans alive in the county, but seven of those have been lost in the years since.
“We need the younger ones to take over,” Dreiling said, but they are busy with families, and it’s also difficult knowing who served.
Dreiling served from 1966 to 1968 in Vietnam in the 326th Engineers, 101st Airborne Division, building roads and bunkers and doing construction work.
On Wednesday, he placed 125 flags at the Veterans Memorial on the northeast lawn of the Ellis County Courthouse at 13th and Fort streets.
“One hundred twenty-five veterans from Ellis County have died in service, from World War I up to the present,” he said. “It’s all on the memorial, it’s got all the names and which war they died in.”
The memorial was started in 1988 by a dozen local veterans, including Dreiling. Each year, those founders placed the flags.
“I’m the only one that’s able to take care of it anymore,” said Dreiling. “It’s an honor for me to do this for those boys, those soldiers.”
Besides the flags, area towns have Memorial Day services planned for the weekend.
At 10 a.m. Saturday in La Crosse, the Rush County Historical Society will hold a dedication and ribbon cutting at the museum complex on west 1st Street for the Pleasant Point School Museum and the Roger Greenway Memorial Flagpole.
Starting at 3 p.m. Sunday, the VFW Ellis Memorial Post No. 9139 invites people to help decorate more than 400 graves of fallen soldiers with small flags. VFW volunteers will start at St. Mary’s Cemetery, then proceed to Mt. Hope Cemetery. Then at a ceremony and service Monday with honor guard, high school band, Boy Scouts and rifle squad, the VFW volunteers will raise 50 large American flags in the Avenues of Flags at both cemeteries.
Also Monday, the Kansas National Guard will hold services in Hays at a ceremony hosted by Hays American Legion Post 173, as well as in WaKeeney.
See Sunday’s Hays Daily News for details on Sunday’s and Monday’s services and ceremonies in the area.