Duty. Honor. Country.
None of these things matter without the men and women who have laid down their lives in service to those three words.
That’s why retired Lawton Police Officer Kurt Short realized he has a mission this Memorial Day weekend.
At 9 a.m. Saturday, Short will be joined by other volunteers to place 8,000 American flags on the graves at the Fort Sill National Cemetery in Elgin.
“Those men and women who have been laid to rest out there were more than willing to make the sacrifice for our freedoms, and I have no problem making the sacrifice to honor that,” he said.
Short’s mission originated when he saw a news story regarding the Veterans Administration, that entity that governs the national cemeteries, not allowing the usual groups to place flags on these hallowed graves this year due to COVID-19 prevention measures. He contacted officials with the Fort Sill National Cemetery and verified the story. Then he asked if individuals could come out and serve in that role.
“I was told they would be allowed, they weren’t going to stop them,” he said.
With that, Short said he contacted a company to find out how much money was needed to purchase the thousands of small flags. It would be a little over $5,400 that would be needed.
Short set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the 8,000 flags. In just a little over 24 hours, “through the generous donations of a bunch of people, the money was raised and the flags were ordered,” he said. The company expedited the shipping order and the flags are set to arrive today.
“It was a phenomenal response by everybody,” he said. “They’re the ones who deserve the credit, I just had an idea. The true credit, of course, goes to the men and women laid to rest at Fort Sill, they deserve the recognition.”
Revering those who served is something in Short’s blood. He said he’s an Army brat who’s dad was killed in Vietnam in 1967. His stepfather also served in Vietnam. He has since died and is making the Fort Sill National Cemetery his final resting place, along with several of his friends from the Army.
“As far as I’m concerned everybody laid to rest out there is family to me,” he said.
Short, a 28-year-veteran of the Lawton Police Department, has been serving as a Cameron University police officer for a little over two years. To serve is to live.
“I was raised with that strong sense of duty,” he said.
It’s a sense that’s already filled several people who have volunteered to assist Saturday morning. More volunteers are always welcome, Short said. It makes a fitting tribute to those who volunteered, served and fell in the line of duty defending the nation.
“This Saturday, there will be a bunch of individuals out there placing flags,” he said. “There’s 8,000 graves out there so we have a lot of ground to cover.”
Written by Scott Rains: email@example.com.