When the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ruled against allowing traditional Memorial Day flag placement ceremonies at national cemeteries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that the Saturday before the holiday would be much different in Riverhead this year.
But a small group of volunteers from the VFW Rensselaer-Skidmore Post 2476 made certain veterans in other Riverhead cemeteries would not be forgotten this year.
Past VFW commander Joe Edler led the group as it placed flags at the graves of veterans at St. John’s Cemetery Saturday morning. They then continued on to the nearby Riverhead Cemetery, first planting a flag at the gravesite of Medal of Honor recipient Garfield M. Lanhorn before visiting the final resting places of other veterans there, including Vannie D. Skidmore, for whom the post is named.
Van Rensselear Skidmore of Jamesport was an enlisted mechanic in the Aviation Corps and the first Riverhead Town resident killed during World War I. He was among 1,911 Americans lost during the Battle of Belleau Wood in France. According to The County Review, an earlier version of the News-Review, he was standing night guard when he was killed. He was an only child and had recently been married, according to that same article.
His was among the noteworthy graves the volunteers called out as they walked the cemeteries Saturday.