A Marine veteran plans to place markers at the graves of every veteran buried in Calvary Cemetery who served during a war and doesn't have one, and he hopes to finish by Memorial Day.

Richard Zierke said he now has enough metal alloy flag holders to place on the nearly 350 wartime veterans’ graves at the cemetery that don’t have one and hopes to get enough volunteer help to place them by May 25.

Initially, he asked for brass markers but county officials decided to buy cheaper metal holders so they could buy more of them.

“They’re pretty basic, but at least it gets the recognition to the body,” Zierke said.

State law requires counties to ensure every veteran’s grave has a headstone and that each wartime vet’s grave is marked as that of a veteran, an obligation Lancaster County officials typically fulfill by placing brass flag holders at gravesites.

The brass holders cost nearly $30 each, the metal alloy version, $10.

“Our piece of it is done,” said Gary Chalupa, the county’s veterans services officer.

At Calvary Cemetery, relatives of veterans who want the markers won't need to order them, as they will be placed at each veteran's gravesite. Relatives of veterans at other cemeteries who want the markers will need to request them, Chalupa said.

“We’ll do what we can to support," he said.

The county will provide markers for the graves of only veterans who served in recognized periods of war.

Calvary plans to host a 10 a.m. Memorial Day prayer ceremony to honor those buried there, including veterans.

Zierke said he’s gotten offers from a Boy Scout troop and the Knights of Columbus to help get the markers in place by Memorial Day.

“Calvary Cemetery is very grateful to Mr. Zierke and the Boy Scouts for helping to honor those who have served and protected our country,” said Monsignor Timothy Thorburn, cemetery director.

He said the cemetery has made a number of improvements and recently opened two new sections.

“Honoring the memory of those who defended our freedom will enhance this sacred place,” he said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7225 or kabourezk@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJS_Abourezk.


I'm a Journal Star night editor and father of five.

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