MANATEE -- Members of American Legion Riders Chapter 24 will lead off local Memorial Day observances at 9 a.m. Thursday when they place 329 American flags on veterans graves at Fogartyville Cemetery, and 136 flags on graves at neighboring Adams and Rogers Cemetery.
Members of Kirby Stewart American Legion Post 24 have long had a Memorial Day service at Fogartyville Cemetery, the final resting place of the post's namesake, Lt. Kirby Stewart.
Stewart was killed in ac
tion Oct. 8, 1918, while leading an attack near Chateau Thierry, France, about one month before the armistice was signed for World War I. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery.
Last year, members of the American Legion Post began placing American flags on all the graves of veterans at Fogartyville Cemetery, and decided to adopt Adams and Rogers Cemetery as well after finding several graves of veterans in the historically black cemetery.
Members of the post have worked to cut back overgrowth in Adams and Rogers, and straighten or re-erect tombstones.
They have also researched both cemeteries trying to identify the resting places of as many veterans as possible.
The research has paid off. Last year, legion members placed a total of 198 flags. This year they will place 465.
"We have been at it since last Memorial Day," said James Brown, director of the American Legion Rider chapter.
"We reclaimed over 70 graves and uncovered over 52 veterans graves. We will now be placing 136 flags on veterans headstones at Adams and Rogers Cemetery. We also discovered two Purple Heart recipients and three Bronze Star recipients are buried at this site," Brown said.
In addition to today's placement of flags, the American Legion Riders will have a ceremony at Fogertyville at 9 a.m. Monday, followed at 9:30 a.m. with a dedication ceremony of the two flag poles and emblems of each of the branches of the military along with a plaque that was completed by Eagle Scout candidate Chandler Shepard.
The two cemeteries are at 43rd Street Northwest and Third Avenue Northwest.
Other Memorial Day observances include:
Sarasota National Cemetery will host a Memorial Day ceremony at Patriot Plaza, 9810 State Road 72, Sarasota, at 5 p.m. Sunday.
The Sarasota National Cemetery Advisory Committee organized the event. A salute to Vietnam War veterans is planned commemorating the 50th anniversary of the start of that war. Veterans of the Vietnam War era attending will receive a salute and commemorative lapel pin.
The Sarasota Military Academy will perform music by Oldsmar resident Craig Gross, whose son, Cpl. Frank R. Gross, was killed in Afghanistan. Trinity Christian Fellowship Center Choir will perform a medley of patriotic music.
Retired Brig. Gen. Richard M. Blunt will be the keynote speaker.
The Memorial Day "Tribute to Heroes" Parade and festivities is set for 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Lakewood Ranch Main Street. The parade begins at 6 p.m.
The Manatee County Memorial Day program will be held at 9 a.m. Monday at the Veterans Memorial behind Manatee Memorial Hospital with Cmd. Sgt. Major Steve Valley as guest speaker.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.