No parade this year. No marching bands. Crowds lining Main Street. But veterans gathered on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend to continue a tradition that goes back decades in Ridgefield: the honoring of veterans\u2019 graves with small American flags. \u201cIt\u2019ll be over 900 flags,\u201d American Legion Commander George Besse said, strolling with an armful of flags among the graves at St. Mary\u2019s Cemetery. \u201cWe do Branchville Cemetery, Mapleshade, St. Mary\u2019s, Ridgebury.\u201d The flags were all put out Friday morning, May 22, with Besse and nine other veterans who met at American Legion Hall \u2014 the old Titicus Schoolhouse off North Salem Road \u2014 spreading out into the nearby Mapleshade and the adjoining Old Town and Fairlawn Cemeteries, as well as St. Mary\u2019s just down the street. Separate details of veterans worked the Branchville and Ridgebury cemeteries. \u201cMonday would have been a beautiful day for a parade,\u201d said Roger Restaino as the vets gathered in Legion Hall before dispersing into the cemeteries. \u201cThe cemeteries look beautiful,\u201d said George Schuster. \u201cThey mowed St. Mary\u2019s yesterday,\u201d said Besse. This year\u2019s different \u2014 and not just because most of the vets were wearing face masks. Usually the public is invited to join in setting the flags out on veterans\u2019 graves, and those who turn out to help often include young people, school kids, scout troops. \u201cIt\u2019s really enjoyable when we have the scouts and those school groups with us \u2014 because the kids really enjoy it,\u201d said Restaino. \u201cSo it\u2019s sad not being able to do it with them this year.\u201d Young officer There was one younger volunteer joining the veterans on Friday, Kristofer Klemm, a 21-year-old graduating from Norwich University. Through the university\u2019s Corps of Cadets program he\u2019d earned his commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army on May 3. He was scheduled to leave Sunday for Ft. Benning, GA, where he expected to begin at least eight months of training \u2014 infantry officer training first, then Army Ranger School and Airborne School. He\u2019s not new to the tradition of setting flags out on graves in Ridgefield cemeteries. \u201cI\u2019ve been doing this nine years now,\u201d said Lt. Klemm, a 2016 Ridgefield High School graduate. \u201cI met Mr. Besse my freshman year of high school. \u201cIt\u2019s just kind of paying it forward,\u201d he said. \u201cThe American Legion\u2019s done a lot for me.\u201d The Legion sent him to Boys\u2019 State, back when he was in high school. And recently, with the university closed due the coronavirus lock-down, Ridgefield\u2019s American Legion Post 78 hosted Klemm\u2019s commissioning ceremony. And he again joined them in honoring the graves. \u201cIt\u2019s kind of somber,\u201d said the young man about to head off on his own military career. \u201cMy last time doing this for a little bit.\u201d While there was a somber undertone, the vets weren\u2019t melodramatic about it \u2014 just a bunch of guys outside on sunny day, with a job to do. Organization It\u2019s not a difficult task, wandering around in the cemetery with an armful of flags, using a screwdriver to make a hole in the ground, placing a flag by a grave. But it does require some organization, and there\u2019s a way it\u2019s supposed to be done. \u201cYou place the flag in front of the headstone,\u201d Besse told the group in Legion Hall before they went out into the cemeteries. Flags misplaced at a grave\u2019s foot-stone end up getting in the way of the people who mow the grass in the cemeteries. Many of the guys had done it before. \u201cChris Trado is over Mapleshade. He\u2019s got a supply of flags,\u201d Besse said. \u201cThey have a funeral 2, 3 o\u2019clock in Mapleshade. If a couple of guys could hit that and finish up Mapleshade, it\u2019d be great.\u201d James Tobin had placed numbers of flags out in the cemeteries at strategic points, along with instruction sheets and diagrams on where veterans\u2019 graves could be found. \u201cThere\u2019s about 40 flags to do in the old section,\u201d he told the group. \u201cIt\u2019s there with a diagram.\u201d More flags and diagrams were waiting at other points, several in St. Mary\u2019s Cemetery. \u201cYou go to Orrico, there\u2019s flags there,\u201d Tobin said, pointing. \u201cJohn Orrico was killed in Vietnam.\u201d The graves don\u2019t have to hold war casualties to be honored with a flag. Anyone who served in the military gets one. \u201cIn the service of this country, whether you sign up in peacetime or war, you\u2019re a veteran,\u201d Tobin said. \u201cIt\u2019s not your decision whether you go to war. \u201cI was in during Vietnam,\u201d he said. \u201cI\u2019m considered a Vietnam veteran. I did not go to Vietnam. \u201cOnce you sign up,\u201d he said, \u201cyou\u2019re putting your life on the line.\u201d Finding them The hardest part of setting out the flags, really, is finding all the graves \u2014 hence the diagrams and instructions. \u201cWe lost again, folks?\u201d said Mike Liberta.\u201dWhere\u2019s the map?\u201d He was working together with George Schuster and John Knoche in St. Mary\u2019s Cemetry. \u201cEleven is Costello,\u201d said Schuster. \u201cThree over. We\u2019ve got five in that area.\u201d They found and placed a flag on the grave of Michael Costello, a veteran of the Civil War who\u2019d died more than three decades after the conflict, July 15, 1896. Neal Fritz was in the Mapleshade Cemetery, diligently looking for graves that needed flags: Charles Jerman, a World War I veteran; then John W. Holmes, a Civil War veteran who\u2019d died June 15, 1885. \u201cThat\u2019s an old one,\u201d Fritz said. There were older graves. One belonged to Elijah Smith, who served in the Revolutionary War, and died April 28, 1828. Tobin said he owed thanks to Donna Barber, the sexton of St. Mary\u2019s Cemetery. \u201cShe gave me a list of the new veterans that are buried here, so we don\u2019t miss people,\u201d Tobin said. \u201cIt\u2019s more important if they get a flag. The family is more likely to come by.\u201d Bob Tulipani, who was American Legion commander for many years before handing the job off to Besse, was setting out flags in an area of St. Mary\u2019s Cemetery, working with his daughter, Kathy Tulipani. \u201cThere\u2019s one over here,\u201d she said. \u201cShe knows the place better than I do,\u201d said her father. \u201cGeorge,\u201d Tulipani said to Besse, who was working nearby with young Lt. Klemm. \u201cYou need one for Howard Hudimatch.\u201d He pointed to the grave of Hudimatch, a World War II veteran who died June 30, 1999. Years and years How far back does the tradition go? \u201cI\u2019d say guys have been doing this for 30 years \u2014 more than that, probably\u201d said Tulipani. \u201cI\u2019ve been doing it 25 years.\u201d In another section of St. Mary\u2019s Cemetery, Mike Liberta, John Knoche and George Schuster continued working as a trio. \u201cKnoche,\u201d said Liberta, reading the next name on the instruction sheet from Tobin. John Knoche looked up: \u201cThat might be my grandfather.\u201d he said.