ST. PAUL (KMSP) - To help her kids learn the true meaning of Memorial Day, Joanne Malmstedt called Fort Snelling National Cemetery last year hoping her family could volunteer to place flags at gravestones of fallen soldiers. She was shocked to learn the tradition stopped 30 years ago.
“It started basically as a teaching moment for my kids,” says Malmstedt. “They know what I say about Veterans Day and Memorial Day, but then they made a comment last year about what party of barbeque were we going to go to. And it just sort of hit me they didn't really understand the gravity of it.”
Last year Malmstedt and a handful of volunteers collected about 3,000 flags to place at gravestones. This year, after organizing into the nonprofit group Flags for Fort Snelling, they have more than 10,000 flags to be placed starting at 6 a.m. Monday morning.
“I think the hardest part was making sure we didn't miss a certain spot, because I'd feel really bad if I did,” said Logan Ogroske, Malmstedt’s 10-year old son.
With plans to keep this going for years to come, each flag is being water sealed, in hopes of reusing as many times as possible.
“If it hits the ground and it gets dirty you can't use that flag, because it's disrespectful and you don't want to put it on a grave,” said Alannah Silva, Malmstedt’s 12-year-old daughter.
Silva and Ogroske have a great-great-great-grandfather buried at Fort Snelling, so while this is personal, it's more about being patriotic.
“This is way better than going to the beach or something,” said Silva.
At last check about 150 volunteers are registered to help place flags. No one will be turned away, but the group is in dire need of volunteers to help pick up flags on Wednesday.
For more information on how to help or donate go to www.flagsforfortsnelling.com.