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Democrat Photo by Dan Hust

TROOP 97 BOY Scout David Gizinski hands A. Oland Erath’s just-lowered flag to his widow, Jessie, prior to taking Tillie Miller’s (right) flag and raising it on the pole at the Grahamsville Rural Cemetery in honor of veteran Walter Miller on Saturday. The event was the annual flag exchange.

Tradition Continues
In Grahamsville

By Dan Hust
GRAHAMSVILLE — November 13, 2001 – A Grahamsville tradition was renewed as usual on Saturday as the community gathered at the hamlet’s cemetery to witness the flag exchange and commemorate Veterans Day.
Held every six months (on Memorial Day and Veterans Day), the exchange is conducted by members of the Grahamsville Reformed Church, the cemetery association, and this time around, Boy Scout Troop 97 of Neversink – all coordinated by local resident Polly Hill.
A chilly wind whipped over the green grass carpeting the scenic cemetery, but the breeze allowed Old Glory to be unfurled in all its red, white and blue splendor, and the approximately 50 attendees remained hushed during the entire ceremony.
Of course, a good portion of them knew that it was foolishness to compete with local resident and passionate speaker Miles Ellison, who rivaled presidents and televangelists in his delivery of common truths.
“I’m so proud that you are here celebrating what these murderers hate about us,” he said, referencing the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. “You are here in pride . . . celebrating this flag, celebrating this nation.”
“It’s very, very important that we come together and share these times,” agreed Neversink Supervisor Georgianna Lepke as the steel flagpole behind her rang with the snaps of a rope blowing in the stiff wind. “It’s very emotional for all of us.”
Lepke called this war one of “necessity” – and guest speaker Al Etkin, former head of the county veterans’ agency and himself a veteran, agreed.
“We are the land of the free only if we remain the home of the brave. . . . We must stand with resolve and fly our flag daily,” he remarked. “However, it is indeed unfortunate that it took an act of terrorism to reignite our patriotism.”
Shortly thereafter, local Boy Scouts lowered the flag flown since Memorial Day in honor of A. Oland Erath and hoisted another in respect to Walter Miller.
Erath, who died in March of 1997, served in New Guinea as a member of the Army in World War II. His wife and daughter accepted the flag in memory of a man who was well-known for his commitment to the Grahamsville community.
Walter Miller’s widow, Tillie, handed the flag to the scouts in honor of her husband’s service to his country as an infantryman in World War II who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He passed away in August of 1999.
Tillie Miller herself is a veteran, having served in World War II in the Marines. Her brother did so, as well, and happened to celebrate his birthday that day – which just so happened to be the 226th birthday for the Marine Corps, too.
Followed by salutes from members of the Dennis Ackerley VFW Post #8648 of Neversink and the playing of “Taps” by Thomas Denman (plus a benediction by local Reverend Paul Ruter), the crowd lingered for quite a while, contemplating the sacrifices of the many veterans who are buried in the century-old cemetery.
“This is very unique,” said a somewhat more subdued Miles Ellison. “It’s a reunion, really, . . . of friends, neighbors, county and town officials.”

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