Additional 3,300 service members found buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery

Ahead of Memorial Day, volunteers come to the cemetery to place a flag at every soldier's gravesite.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 6:01 PM EDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ohio (WXIX) - This Memorial Day, more American flags will be placed at Veterans Garden Memorial at Gate of Heaven than ever before.

Ahead of Memorial Day, volunteers with The Valor Group come to the cemetery that spans 160 acres of sacred ground to place a flag at every gravesite to make sure those who made the ultimate sacrifice, along with the soldiers who came home, are honored.

2020, because of COVID-19, was the only year flags were not placed at the gravesites.

The group used that time to examine the cemetery’s rolls and found more than 3,300 veterans whose graves were never marked until now.

“We have a list of unmarked headstones, so we take that list, cross reference it, and walk every single headstone to make sure we get a flag on every veteran that is interred here,” says Ed Lawton with The Valor Group.

Finding the unmarked graves is not an easy task as there are 50,000 gravesites at Gate of Heaven Cemetery.

“Something that we thrive to do at Gate of Heaven is to make time for people to remember and to honor and to teach their children and to bring their children,” explains Kate Thesing with Gate of Heaven Cemetery.

From the first soldier buried in 1948 to now more than 6,500 service members who gave their lives for the country, these volunteers have a goal to find them all.

“My Dad and all his brothers were in the military,” explains volunteer Debbie Felix. “I’ve had nieces and nephews serve in the military so it’s just something that is really important to me.”

Gate of Heaven says the annual placing of flags and its veterans memorial garden were inspired by Batavia soldier Matt Maupin who is buried here.

Staff Sgt. Maupin was captured in Iraq in 2004 and killed while in captivity.

His body recovered in March 2008.

“To be able to give back to the veterans that gave their time and served for us is very heartwarming,” says volunteer Rhonda Kimble.

The volunteers spent all Thursday walking the cemetery and will do so again Friday to make sure they didn’t miss a single service member’s gravesite.

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