It all started with just one flag in honor of his father.
Now, nearly six years later, it’s over 200 flags, three times a year, for every veteran in Memorial Garden Park cemetery on Oktoc Road.
“My father joined the Marine Corp and went through World War II. He came back and me and all my brothers, he always told us how he loved the Marine Corp, because that was really his family and taught him how to grow up,” Barry Montgomery said. “That’s the reason I got into the Marine Corp, and I spent 25 years there.”
When his father, Woodrow Montgomery, died on July 3, 2005, he placed a Marine Corp flag and an American flag at his grave. But he noticed that several other veterans were buried right around his father.
“We put out three flags at first. Then on the way home, I stopped and bought 20 more. But within 30 yards, we were out of flags,” Montgomery said. “We hadn’t even come close. My wife went out and bought 160 more. And on July 4th, I came out here and put them up, but we were still short. I went out and bought 30 more, and I only ended up with one left over.”
He has made sure that every veteran in Memorial Gardens has a flag for each Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day every year since. He buys over 200 flags each time, paying for it out of his own pocket.
“It’s my honor,” Montgomery said. “It’s not about the price.”
Before placing each flag, Montgomery salutes each soldier, thanking them by name for their faithful service. He places the flag just above their headstone, but if the veteran’s wife has passed away as well, he takes care to place it in the middle, between them. He joked that the wives have had to put up with hearing countless war stories, so they deserve to be honored, as well.
Over the last few years, he and friends Skip Agaurd and Sgt. Major Billy Houston have made sure that other local cemeteries receive flags on Memorial Day and other national holidays.
“You know what’s so rewarding? To stand out there and look back, and just see how many veterans there are who sacrificed,” Montgomery said. “People just don’t realize what they’ve got. We traveled all over the world with the service, and saw places that have absolutely nothing. It’s mind boggling to have everything and not really appreciate it. God has really been good to America and to us.”