Eddy Middle School students Foster Crockett, 8, left, Teddy Crockett, Corbin Hanna, 12, of Woodstock, Owen Maher, 13, of Bethel and Jack Bartash, 14, of Hanover, placed flags May 17 on veterans’ graves at Riverside Cemetery in Bethel. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

BETHEL — As her students gathered for an outdoor ceremony on May 17, Teacher and Eddy Middle School Director Deb Webster said the table at the center of their half circle was the one thing in their shed that survived the December flood.

Eddy School students Sophie Wakefield, 14, left, and Elsa Parker,11, of Albany placed over 60 flags on veterans’ graves at Riverside Cemetery in Bethel. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

“So clearly we are supposed to do this,” she said.

In an area beside their Newry school, students began setting a Missing Man table to honor veterans.

“The table is round to show our everlasting concern for our missing soldiers,” began student and Petty Officer First Class Teddy Crockett, of Albany, as students placed objects on the table. “The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty … a slice of lemon on the plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.

“A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers …[Finally], the chair is empty symbolizing they are missing,” read Crockett as a student added a chair to the set table.

Former Eddy School parent and Naval Veteran Keith Smith, of Andover, introduced the missing man table to Webster’s school a few years ago when his own children attended. He told the class when you served with someone who has died your feelings go to another level.  “Some people don’t come home. For me that’s what this represents. It’s very powerful. Thank you for continuing the tradition,” said Smith to the students.


Eddy Middle School students Teddy Crockett, 11, of Albany and Corbin Hanna, 12, of Woodstock placed flags on veterans’ graves at Riverside Cemetery in Bethel. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

Placing flags

Before they headed to Bethel’s Riverside Ceremony to place flags on veterans’ graves, parent Paige Crockett explained that Memorial Day is to celebrate those who have died in service to their country. Veteran’s Day is for all who have served, both living and dead in all the wars, she said.

Crockett asked students to take note if the bronze or metal holder is missing from a grave. The holder has a symbol on it that represents the war that person served in, she explained.

Arriving at the North Road cemetery, students worked in groups, checking veterans’ names off of a clipboard as they replaced about 200 flags, removing the year-old old tattered flags and replacing them with new ones.

“One bit of flag etiquette is that we try not to drop them on the ground,” Crockett reminded the students.

Foster Crockett, 8, seemed to note every grave. “This one is ancient,” he said of one that dated back to Revolutionary War days.


“Can you power wash a grave?” he asked when they came to one mottled with moss.

Sharon and Louis Campbell sat on the back of their Ford pick-up trip parked near the center of the cemetery eating a picnic lunch. They said they come every year from Windham to place flowers on several family graves. One relative was a veteran, her grandfather Leslie Carter, served in World War I. The grave was missing the bronze marker.

A group of girls, one carrying a clipboard said Carter’s name was not on their list. Another group didn’t list Carter, either. The kids found Paige Crockett who wrote down the Campbells’ contact information. She said someone from the Bethel Legion would be in touch to replace the marker.

When the work was done Corbin Hanna, 12, rested under a lilac tree. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

The following day, Crockett planned to meet a different group of students at the Greenwood American Legion, to place flags at various Greenwood cemeteries.

Said Crockett, “The real goal here, is the Legion and the auxiliary are seeing their numbers die down and their membership get older. The push right now is to engage some of our youth and let them know what this organization is doing.”

A group of boys, working together, had worked hard trying to locate some of the men on their list, by the time they were done, the heat had tired them out.

Corbin Hanna of Woodstock lifted his cap over his eyes and laid down by a lilac tree to rest and, perhaps, reflect.

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