Esther Earl died at age 16 from cancer. Her parents have published a collection of her writings.
By Alex Ashlock
BOURNE, Mass– On this Memorial Day, American flags are flying on the graves at the National Cemetery in Bourne, Massachusetts thanks to a man named Paul Monti. Paul’s son, Sgt. First Class Jared Monti, was killed in Afghanistan in 2006, while trying to save a buddy who had been seriously wounded.
Sgt. Monti was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery that day and he was buried in the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne. But when his father visited the cemetery on Veterans Day that year, he was shocked to see there were no American flags on the graves.
Cemetery rules prohibited the flags, because the grave markers are flush with the ground so anything placed above them makes maintenance difficult, especially when the grass needs to be cut. Paul Monti thought that was ridiculous, so he convinced officials to change the rules and he also started a project called Flags For Vets that came to fruition on Saturday, when hundreds of volunteers came to the cemetery and helped Paul Monti place flags on all of the more than 50,000 graves there.
They came by the busload, kids with their parents and their grandparents, sons and daughters whose fathers and mothers are buried at the cemetery, Boy Scouts and Vietnam veterans on Harleys. Many of them, in fact most of them, didn’t know Paul or Jared Monti.
“I’m overwhelmed at the support, the patriotism of all of you,” Paul Monti told the crowd. “This cemetery has been open for 31 years and never have they had flags on the individual graves here. In the crowd around you there are many Gold Star families. We are the ones who have lost someone near or dear to us. Many of us lost them in battle. Please as you place a flag say a small prayer for these veterans. Maybe if you could write down the names, go home and look them up on the Internet. You’ll be surprised what you will find.”