CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA)– Several Memorial Day events have been cancelled because of COVID-19. One man in Central Illinois decided to make sure veterans are still recognized for their service. J.R. Stillwell has spent days at Mount Hope and Roselawn Cemeteries making sure one tradition isn’t put on hold for another year. “If we don’t get a chance to go out and walk through these cemeteries and find these people, they’re not being marked. They’re not being recognized,” said Stillwell. 85 year old J.R. Stillwell says they should be. He served in the Army from 1955-1958 and has been involved with putting flags on graves since 1948. “It is for someone who was in service whether they were in a national guard or reserve, just that they have been in the US military,” said Stillwell.
Normally, he and several other volunteers would put out flags. Because of coronavirus restrictions, they weren’t able to do that this year. That didn’t stop Stillwell. “I said I just can’t let that sit out there that way. I’ve got to do something,” said Stillwell. He took another approach. “I’ve been basically sitting in that car waiting for people to show up to pick up flags, and take and put out on their graves,” said Stillwell.
Stillwell says usually volunteers will put out anywhere from 1,400 to 1,500 flags on Memorial Day weekend. However, this year Stillwell says he has only passed out a little over 100. He says there are still many other graves without them. “There are so many people in this cemetery that no longer have families either in the area or have families at all,” said Stillwell. He says they deserve to be recognized.