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This Memorial Day, show your appreciation by 'adopting' a homeless veteran's burial plot

Posted at 4:55 PM, May 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 18:38:35-04

A volunteer is looking for help decorating the gravesites of homeless veterans at Omaha National Cemetery for Memorial Day.

Mary Rosenthal is leading an effort to get people to stop by specific plots and leave flowers or other symbols of appreciation — not coins, however, as they are prohibited — throughout the year, but especially on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.



Mary said there are a few specific plots in the cemetery for homeless or indigent veterans with no loved ones in the area at which people are asked to consider leaving flowers anytime this week, or in the future. Those wishing to volunteer are asked to email Mary at

In Section 1:

  • Air Force Maj. Lucille L. Chilton, interred at No. 122 on Nov. 16, 2016
  • Korean War veteran Army Sgt. Roger V. Cromey, interred at No. 8 on Oct. 6, 2016
  • Korean War veteran Army Pvt. 1st Class Bob W. Hammer, interred at No. 32 on Oct. 12, 2016
  • George F. Hovey, Air Force, interred at No. 84 on Nov. 2, 2016
  • World War II veteran Edward A. Laufter, Carpenter's Mate, 2nd Class; interred at No. 22 on Oct. 5, 2016
  • Navy Seaman Jerry Q. Lawrence, a Korean War veteran, interred at No. 26 on Oct. 11, 2016
  • Vietnam veteran Petty Ofc. 3rd Class Gary D. Norton, interred at No. 421 on July 18, 2017
  • World War II veteran Army Air Force Staff Sgt. Louis Shaddy, interred at No. 34 on Oct. 12, 2016
  • Seaman James. T. McElmurray, who served as an electronics technician in the Navy, interred at No. 175 on Dec. 19, 2016
  • Vietnam veteran and Army Pvt. 1st Class Vernon A. Peterson, interred at No. 172 on Dec. 16, 2016
  • Air Force Capt. Kathleen Widdersheim, interred at No. 115 on Nov. 14, 2016

In Section 3:

  • Navy Airman Recruit Walter C. Cox, buried at No. 126 on Jan 26, 2018
  • Vietnam veteran Army Pvt. Michael V. LaFreniere, buried at No. 127 on Jan. 29, 2018
  • Vietnam veteran Marine Pvt. Donald Stark, buried at No. 72 on May 23, 2017

Rules about flowers

Those leaving flowers are asked to abide by the cemetery's rules, which are also posted in plain view at the cemetery. These rules include:

  • Natural cut flowers may be placed on graves at any time of the year. They will be removed when they become unsightly.
  • Glass containers are not allowed. Metal, plastic, and paper temporary flower containers are permitted.
  • Plantings are not permitted on the graves at any time. Potted plants are permitted on graves 10 days before and 10 days following Easter Sunday.
  • Artificial flowers are permitted during Memorial Day week as an exception to the rule. Memorial Day decorations will be removed from graves seven days following the holiday. 
  • Statues, vigil lights, balloons, breakable objects of any nature, and similar commemorative items are not permitted on graves. 
  • Adornments that are considered offensive, inconsistent with the dignity of the cemetery, or considered hazardous to cemetery personnel are not permitted.
  • Floral items and other decorations will not be secured to headstones or markers.