LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Hundreds of miniature American flags wave on the lawn of Woodlawn Cemetery, representing over 1,600 veterans laid to rest there.
While some utilized this Memorial Day to celebrate summer’s beginning through barbecues and pool parties, nearly 100 others gathered around these flags Monday morning for an annual tradition in the state that is roughly 9% veteran.
Len Schweitzer, for one, finds himself at this cemetery on the last Monday of each May where he remembers family members who served and questions how he made it out of the air force while so many others did not.
“I had two uncles in the army that passed away. I had a sister in the navy that passed away,” Schweitzer said on the cemetery’s lawn Monday morning while holding a hand over his heart. “They’ve been gone quite a while, but it still, you know – it still hits me right here.”
Schweitzer said he’s been attending this annual service since it began 23 years ago. Woodland Cemetery is listed on the city’s website as the oldest Las Vegas cemetery and part of the National Register of Historic Places.
Performances from the Silver Statesmen Barbershop Chorus moved audience members to tears as they sang The Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, and the Armed Forces Medley. Clark County and Nevada representatives additionally gave speeches.
“There is an empty seat at the table today,” Clark County Commissioner William McCurdy II told the audience. “They made it, and many of them, their comrades, did not.”
“It’s over one point three million – are counted in the generations that have died so far as service personnel,” City of Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said to the audience. “Are we really living the life to prove it was worth it?”
Larry Davis, managing partner for Bunker’s Funeral Homes & Cemeteries, organizes the service each year.
“They paid the ultimate sacrifice for us,” Davis said after the service. “We have to keep the memory alive of these men and women who lost their lives to keep us free.”
The hour-long service left several, like Schweitzer, reminiscing over those who were and what they left behind.
“It makes me very happy. It makes me really proud to be among the servicemen,” Schweitzer said.