AUGUSTA — Many hands — more than 60 pairs of them — made short work of placing American flags at veterans’ graves Wednesday at the city’s Mount Hope Cemetery atop Winthrop Street.

Whitefield Middle Elementary School students traveled to Augusta to assist the members of American Legion Fitzgerald-Cummings Post 2 in Augusta.

“This is the first year we’ve had a school out here to help,” said Howard Betts, of Farmingdale, Post 2 commander. “These kids actually made short work of it. I expected it to take three hours. It’s only been an hour and a half, and we’re done. It’s fantastic.”

The post decorates about 1,800 graves each year in anticipation of Memorial Day, which originally was called Decoration Day. While it began initially to honor those who died in military service, other deceased veterans also are recognized for their service to the country.

“I thought it was great to contribute to people who fought for our freedom,” said seventh-grader Griffen Bond, one of the flag-placing crew members. “The generation that’s been taking care of them is gone and somebody needs to take care of them.”

He also said his father served in Kuwait, great-grandfathers fought in World War II and other family members served in the Air Force.

Sullivan Anderson, another seventh-grader, said he had aunts and uncles who served in the Air Force as well as an uncle in the Coast Guard, and he was pleased to be able to help decorate the graves in Augusta.

“Since these people fought for our country, it’s a great thing our teacher, Ms. McCormick, has brought us out here to do this and respect them,” he said.

Chiara Mahoney, an eighth-grader, worked on flag placement with some of her classmates, including Gracie Bowen and Devan Grady.

“We’re going to (a cemetery) in Whitefield on Friday,” sixth-grader Tyler Margitan said. “We have to honor the men and women who served our country.”

Margitan said two of his great-uncles served in World War II, and one of them was at Iwo Jima.

Karen McCormick, who teaches science to Whitefield middle-schoolers, said the public service was “kind of an extension” of the school’s Day of Caring.

Seventh-grader Kyle Holmes got a bonus on the field trip. He was able to locate the graves of his great-grandparents at Mount Hope.

Betts said he was contacted by Myrtle Brown, a former president of the Legion auxiliary whose great-grandchildren attend school in Whitefield to see if the students there could help.

While the students carried bundles of flags, Betts and other Legion members consulted printed lists to ensure that no veterans’ graves were missed.

“We don’t have GPS for this,” Betts said. But the cemetery is neatly sectioned off and “already more or less gridded with roads,” he said, so locating the sites provided no problem.

Earlier Wednesday, another post member, Bill Logan, placed flags on veterans’ graves at St. Mary’s Cemetery on Pelton Hill in Manchester before going to Mount Hope. He’s been marking veterans’ graves with flags for more than 30 years. “The problem with these,” he said, pointing to a string of markers, “is some are family stones with no indication of a veteran.”

The Legion post coordinates the flag placement through the city. Maine law says, “Each municipality, as directed by its municipal officers, annually shall decorate on the day Memorial Day is observed the graves of veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States of America with an American flag and appropriate flag holders.”

Betts said a Boy Scout troop would be working Thursday night to place flags at veterans’ graves at Holy Family Cemetery, on Townsend Road across from an entrance to the Marketplace at Augusta.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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Twitter: @betadams