Monday marked the 100th anniversary of the creation of the position of chief petty officer, and the local veterans marked the occasion by placing U.S. Coast Guard flags at Ludington’s Lakeview Cemetery.
Local veterans braved the rain, wind and cooler temperatures to place Coast Guard flags at the gravestones of guard servicemen and servicewomen at Lakeview Cemetery. U.S. Coast Guard veterans Lysle Hansberger, Al Benson and Scott Ruterbusch placed a flag at the grave of fallen guardsmen.
Congress first authorized the Coast Guard to use the promotion to chief petty officer in 1920. The grade of chief petty officer was established for the U.S. Navy in 1893.
The group has been participating in a program called Flags Across America that was started in 1999 in part by Ed Kruska, a retired Coast Guard chief warrant officer from Ludington. Kruska, was one of eight founding members of the nationwide program that honors deceased guardsmen.
Locally, retired Master Chief Petty Officer Benson and Chief Petty Officer Hansberger have established and taken on the Flags Across America locally in Mason County with a mission of placing a flag at the site of every coast guardsman’s grave that they have been able to locate in Mason County.
Benson said they originally received 100 flags form Kruska when they originally started the program in 1999.
“I walked the cemetery (Lakeview) for three of four days just plotting where the coast guard people were at,” Benson said.
Over time the program grew bigger and to out into more cemeteries in the county.
“There are nine cemeteries in Mason County,” Hansberger said.
Hansberger said the majority of the crewmen and women are in Lakeview and Pere Marquette cemeteries.
“When my wife and I go around to the cemeteries, we drive about 105 miles,” he said.
Benson said he continues to do this year after year because of his loyalty to his seamen and the Coast Guard.
Hansberger said it is a brotherhood and it is a way to honor them.
Both along with Ruterbusch and others will be back out on Wednesday placing more flags at the gravestones of Coast Guard crew members.