Community comes together to commemorate veterans |

Community comes together to commemorate veterans

In the Happy Homestead Cemetery in South Lake Tahoe, over 560 American flags flutter on the graves of veterans.

Members of the American Legion Post 795's group Vets in Counseling decorated the cemetery on Thursday in preparation for the Memorial Day ceremony to be held on Monday, May 29.

"It's a solemn day," said Ric Patterson, a veteran of the Vietnam War who's been placing flags at the cemetery for the past seven years. "It's a time to reflect on our fellow brothers in arms. They would do the same for us."

For American Legion Auxiliary president Carol Olivas, whose veteran husband Clarence passed away nine years ago, it's an emotional time, but also a very significant one.

"This is very important to our American Legion and to our veterans, and the fact that we have over 560 veterans in this little tiny cemetery of ours," said Olivas.

South Lake Tahoe resident Patty Smith placed a red, white and blue bouquet of flowers on the grave of her son Sgt. Timothy Smith. Sgt. Smith, 25, passed away in April 2008 when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

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"He would walk into the room and it would light up. His laugh — I miss that so much. But I have a very supportive community," said Smith, her hands full of flags, ready to be placed on the graves. "It's very patriotic, and I feel really proud of my community for doing this."

Over the long weekend, members of the Auxiliary will be collecting donations for poppies outside of Grocery Outlet at 2358 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

"The distribution of these bright red memorial flowers to the public is one of the oldest and most widely recognized programs of the American Legion Auxiliary," said Olivas. "It's also one of the Auxiliary's most important fundraisers."

The ceremony on Memorial Day will take place at 11 a.m. at Happy Homestead Cemetery, located at 1261 Johnson Blvd. After the ceremony, the public is invited to join Legion and Auxiliary members for cake and refreshments at the American Legion Hall, 2748 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

"Memorial Day is a significant opportunity to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country," said American Legion Commander Matthew Panks. "We hope we get a good turnout that includes community members and leaders. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join us for this important ceremony."

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