November 10, 2021 - 7:22 pm
Updated November 11, 2021 - 11:36 am
Dawn Cramer visited her father’s grave on Veterans Day in 2019 and was shocked with what she saw.
“All these graves, with no flags,” she said. “And I’m getting teary-eyed, and my heart’s just hurting, it was literally just hurting. And as I got to my dad’s grave, I sat there in disbelief.”
So Cramer, whose father served in the Marines, decided to take action. The next year, she traveled back to the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City and paid for about 1,400 flags, planting them at veterans’ graves around the cemetery. This year, the operation has grown even more, with dozens of volunteers on hand to plant 5,000 flags in the area.
Cramer, who lives in Allendale, Michigan, was joined by representatives from the Nevada National Guard, Nellis Air Force Base, Boulder City Fire Department, Just Serve, Metropolitan Police Department and plenty of people who live in the area and just want to help.
With so many volunteers, all the flags were planted in a couple hours. It also went so quickly in part because Tama Clark, a Las Vegas resident, showed up early with 200 flags to plant herself.
Clark’s dad, who was in the Army and served during World War II, is buried at the cemetery.
“He wanted to be buried right there because there’s an airport right there,” she said. “And when the planes take off he said I want a window in my casket so I can watch those planes. So every time we’re out here we always get to watch the planes.”
Cramer has also planned an event for Thursday night at sunset, complete with a 21-gun salute and a few speakers. Then she’ll be back at the cemetery in the middle of the night, because all the flags need to be removed and packed up by 7 a.m. Friday.
She’s still working on a plan to store the flags before next year, when she hopes to have even more. There are 48,000 graves in the cemetery, but Cramer and others want to go section by section each year, hoping that the event draws more people and more donations each time.
Cramer called military officials across the valley, some of whom came out to help plant flags with other members of their units. Rosa Anaya came out with colleagues from the Army and was touched by the amount of support.
“It’s touching, because when I came out here at first I was like oh, okay, we’re going to put flags on it, and it’ll be cool, but then the actual feeling of doing it literally warms you inside,” she said. “I know that probably sounds corny, but it’s legit.”
What started as one person planting a flag at her dad’s grave site has now grown into an annual event with support from organizations and people across Southern Nevada. And no one involved plans to stop any time soon.
Each flag costs about 60 cents, Cramer said, but they’re reusable year after year. In 2020, she bought all the flags herself, but there have been multiple donations this year, and she’s hoping for even more in 2022.
“I’m not a non-profit, I’m just a citizen,” Cramer said. “I’m nobody. But I know how to show respect.”