By JULIA ROBERTS GOAD
MAHER - The quiet is unbroken as Sgt. Jim Saunders solemnly places a flag, stops, salutes and moves to the next veteran’s grave.
Saunders, an Air Force veteran who served 15 months in Vietman and Southeast Asia, spent four days putting American flags on the graves of military service members who are buried at Mountain View Memory Gardens at Maher.
Saunders does this of his on accord, alone, and prefers no recognition for himself. He asked not to be photographed.
“The families of these vets sometimes don’t do this,” he said as he pulled a cart holding a flag for each of the 534 veterans buried at Maher. “I can understand that, it brings back bad memories. But, if we as veterans don’t honor them, we aren’t worth much.”
Saunders’ family has a record of service. His son-in-law, Lt. Col. Brad Smith, has served with the Army as a Blackhawk pilot, flying 29 missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. Saunders’ grandson, Sgt. C.J. Goldsmith, served 18 months in the Army.
The number of living veterans of World War II is dwindling, Saunders remarked, adding there is only one left at VFW Post 8001 where he is a member. He said there were roughly 40 WW I veterans buried at Maher, one WW II era WAC Captain and even a Civil War veteran.
He honors each with a flag and a salute.
Saunders decorates veterans’ graves twice a year, for Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. He said he would start doing this at the cemetery in West Williamson this year as well.
Remarking on the peacefulness of the setting, he said the solitude he experiences while placing the flags is part of the ritual of thanks, here he remembers those who sacrificed their lives for their country.
“It is a time to reflect,” Saunders said. “I know I am blessed to have come back at all. I owe these guys.”