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Flower Mound students prepare cemetery for Veterans Day

ELGIN — Erin Griffin held back tears Wednesday afternoon as she watched her students move slowly between graves, gently planting a flag in the ground at each headstone.

Dozens of fourth- and fifth-grade students from Flower Mound Public Schools visited Fort Sill National Cemetery to place flags on the graves of nearly 1,000 U.S. military veterans. For nearly 15 years, the school has helped the cemetery prepare for Veterans Day, celebrated each Nov. 11.

Eighteen months ago, Griffin was in a cemetery just like this one, burying her father, who retired as a sergeant major in the U.S. Army.

“It’s still really hard,” she said, gazing across the rows of white marble headstones. “That’s why I wasn’t out here last year; it was just too much.”

After emptying their hands of flags, several students silently hugged Griffin as tears flowed down her cheeks.

“My students were all really supportive when it happened,” said Griffin, who was away from school for two weeks when her father died. “The respect and love they had was amazing.”

Griffin wasn’t the only one feeling the weight of the holiday’s significance.

Marty Talley retired as a command sergeant major after 30 years in the Army, after which he worked for 14 years at Fort Sill National Cemetery. Now, he volunteers every Wednesday, manning the public information booth, mowing grass and doing “whatever they need done around here,” Talley said.

“I was a soldier when I was 18, so I’ve always understood the big picture,” said Talley, whose father, father-in-law and two son-in-laws are all veterans. “Some of these kids, they may not really understand what it’s all about. But by physically walking the grounds out here, it exposes them to the sacrifices that have been made.”

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