Steven Wagner, a 13-year-old student at Craig Middle School, isn't old enough to have a job, let alone join the military. Nonetheless, there he was Monday afternoon, dressed in full World War II-era Navy uniform honoring veterans at Maybell Cemetery.
Steven, standing alongside grizzled men from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, carried the flag as part of the unit's color guard. He wore the same uniform as his grandfather, the late Herman Sanchez.
Wagner said he wore the uniform, and participated with the VFW on Memorial Day, as a tribute to his grandfather, a veteran who died earlier this year.
"I just wanted to do the same stuff my grandpa did," Wagner said.
It was that same sense of respect that brought community members from Maybell, the small town 30 miles west of Craig, to the cemetery.
VFW commander Bud Nelson read the names of 14 veterans buried at the cemetery. They date back to at least World War II, Nelson said.
It's difficult to know how many veterans are buried in Maybell, VFW members said.
On Monday, a caretaker said the cemetery dates back at least 80 to 100 years but wasn't maintained for many years. Caretakers have searched records in an attempt to place markers on several graves.
Although they have been successful in many cases, the identities of about half of the people buried there are listed as unknown.
Rev. Linda Taylor, of the Maybell church, presided over the Memorial Day ceremony. She has been doing so for the last three years.
"We have many heroes here today," she said, referring to those buried in the cemetery and the VFW members helping honor them. "May God bless each and every one of you."
Taylor wrote a poem in honor of Monday's service. She titled the verse "Heaven's Gate."
The poem encouraged people not to be saddened by the deceased soldiers' departure.
"Please don't stand at my grave and weep," Taylor recited. "For you see, I have gone on to Heaven's Gate. With a smile upon my face. ... For you see my pain and tears are gone. For in heaven's gate they did not enter.
"For I sing with the angels now and walk upon the glorious streets of heaven, visiting with one and all."
Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or firstname.lastname@example.org.