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By Ed Moreth 

Plains community decorates flag holders for gravesites


April 19, 2018

Ed Moreth

PATRIOTIC MARKING –Plains fourth-grader Ayden Emerich decorates a flag holder that will eventually be placed in the ground at the site of a military veteran's grave.

Kids and senior citizens got the chance to help military veterans after one veteran came up with a brainstorm to help aging veterans honor passed veterans.

Each year for Memorial Day, members of VFW Post 3596 place American flags at the gravesites of veterans at Plains Cemetery, a task that isn't always easy for the members – average age 72 – to create a hole at each grave for the wooden flag staff. Instead of having to make a hole in the sometimes hard ground, this year they will only have to slip the flag staff into a prepositioned holder at each grave, thanks to Ed Foste. The retired Navy veteran is in the process of having more than 1,000 six-inch PVC pipes buried in the ground at each veteran gravesite.

Foste got the idea of the flag holders from the Plains Cemetery sexton Ken Jones while Foste was working on a metal flower pot and post at the graves of his mother-in-law and father-in-law. To go forward with "Operation Veteran Flag Holder," Foste had to get permission from the cemetery board.

"It's a great community project," said board member Shawn Emmett. Foste also talked with Jones to make sure the holders would not interfere with mowing and weed-eating functions.

"It's going to be great for us," said Joe Eisenbrandt, the VFW's quartermaster, who routinely helps put out the flags each year. Eisenbrandt said the holders would not only be easier on the vets planting the flags, but the veteran gravesites will be easier to spot.

Foste has nearly 1,200 PVC pipes for the estimated 900 vet graves at Plains Cemetery and 10 for the Dixon Cemetery. He also wanted to enhance each of the flag holders and to do that he got various community groups to decorate the holders. Foste, Navy veteran Dave Williams, and Greg Dicken cut the pipes to six inches, followed by Plains Junior High students shop dipping the pipes in paint to make them either red, white or blue.

Students in Plains Elementary School's first through fourth grades volunteered to paint 200 holders.

"I think the kids like to be involved with the community," said Dana Diehl, whose fourth-grade class used permanent markers to paint the top two inches of 40 holders with patriotic themes. "They definitely have an understanding of what a veteran is and what they sacrificed for our freedom. Some of their parents or other relatives were in the military," said Diehl.

Most of the students drew flags on the holders; others painted fireworks or soldiers. Fourth-grader R.J. Butler drew a rifle with a helmet on top, which signifies a lost soldier. Classmate Steven Anderson painted Yellowstone's Old Faithful on one. Ruthie Uli drew a military medal on one of three she painted.

Ed Moreth

PATRIOTIC MARKING –Plains fourth-grader Katelyn Subatch decorates a flag holder that will eventually be placed in the ground at the site of a military veteran's grave.

The Plains Senior Citizens Center were given 50 pipes to decorate. Members of the VFW Auxiliary painted 100 of them – 50 for the vets and 50 for auxiliary members buried at Plains. Clients of the Little Bitterroot Services also volunteered to paint 100, and kids at the Little Star Preschool decorated 20. Foste said a clear coating will be put on the holders to protect the art from the elements.

Foste noted that each year some veteran graves are missed when the VFW inserts the flags. He believes the markers will help make it easier for the vets to spot each grave that needs a flag. He also thinks fewer flag staffs will be broke trying to force them in the ground. Foste, who spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy before retiring 16 years ago, would like to do enough decorated holders for the entire county, but said he'll need assistance. Anyone interested in helping could contact Foste at 826-8467. He hopes to get the holders inserted at Plains Cemetery in the next few weeks. "It's a simple idea for honoring our veterans," he said.


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