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LI volunteers honor ‘ultimate sacrifice’ at military cemetery

Christopher Gee, 9, of Bay Shore helps plant

Christopher Gee, 9, of Bay Shore helps plant flags alongside his father, Benny Gee, a retired Air Force technical sergeant, at Long Island National Cemetery, Pinelawn, on Saturday. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

As dawn broke Saturday morning, volunteers were waiting at Long Island National Cemetery to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

More than 100 volunteers, including families, Boy Scouts and lacrosse players, placed flags on the Pinelawn gravestones to recognize veterans and their families at the start of Memorial Day weekend.

Hauling wagons of flags, some went down the perpendicular rows leaving a solitary flag on each white gravestone just after 6 a.m.

By daybreak, nearly the entire cemetery was covered in stars and stripes.

William Carr, 18, of Williston Park, joined about 100 players and coaches from Plainview-based Recon Lacrosse to place flags. He said he was glad to honor his grandfather, who recently died and had served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific islands.

“We can give up a little bit of our time because they gave up a lot more than a few hours on a Saturday morning,” Carr said.

Benny Gee, 52, an Air Force technical sergeant from Bay Shore, just retired after serving 27 years. He went to the cemetery to place flags for the first time with his two sons, Christopher, 9, and Nicholas, 15, both Boy Scouts.

“If it wasn’t for their ultimate sacrifice, I wouldn’t have the chance to serve,” Gee said. “This showed my sons they should learn to appreciate these people who sacrificed for their freedoms and taught them the respect they deserved.”

Matt Gustafson, 18, of Farmingdale, an Eagle Scout, was with his Seaford Boy Scout Troop 689 to help remember fallen veterans.

“This is important to do and a little thing to give back to those who have given their lives to help our country,” Gustafson said. “It shows we still care to remember our people and getting up at 6 a.m. is small price to pay to show our thanks from our country.”

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