BRISTOL – David Carello, chairman of the Bristol Veterans Council, is forming a committee to continue discussions with management at St. Joseph’s Cemetery following the removal of flags and standard bearers from veterans’ graves.
Carello has been in discussions with St. Joseph Cemetery management since the matter was brought to his attention in October.
St. Joseph’s Cemetery is run by the Archdiocese and came under new management on September 12. The cemetery released a statement that, effective Oct. 1, all potted plants and decorations would be removed from burial sites.
Carello said more than 7,000 flags are placed on veterans’ graves in Bristol each year. He said they had been placed on graves at St. Joseph’s Cemetery before Memorial Day for decades without issue.
“I view their removal as a desecration of veterans’ graves,” Carello previously said.
After Carello spoke to management, an initial compromise agreement was reached that the flags and supports around the upright headstones can remain year-round.
“It is true that many American flags and flag bearers were removed primarily from the flat-footed stones on the north and south sides of the cemetery,” Carello said Friday. “It’s possible that some American flags and bearers have also been removed from some memorials, but there doesn’t appear to be many.”
The reason for the policy change, Carello said previously, was that the cemetery had labor issues when it came to maintaining the property. Cemetery staff, Carello was told, struggle to work around flat memorials with their lawn mowers. Cemetery management has agreed to allow a single flag to represent veterans buried in sections with flat stones at ground level year-round.
Carello said on Friday that the Bristol Veterans Council was “committed to continuing the dialogue” with the management of St. Joseph’s Cemetery, with the aim of “eternally honoring” Bristol’s deceased veterans.
To that end, Carello said he had formed a committee of “organizational members” of the Bristol Veterans Council to discuss the matter further, in the hope of finding a “permanent and reasonable solution”.
“This committee will seek to present a workable plan of action to St. Joseph Cemetery management once and for all,” he said.
Carello said he knows many family members of deceased veterans were “rightfully angry” about the removal of American flags and flag bearers from gravesites. He said the Bristol Veterans Council will keep them informed of any updates during the ongoing conversation.
“Many of these metal or plastic flag holders have been around for years and many have been purchased by family members,” he said. “We at the Veterans Council are adamant that cemetery management could have done a better job of informing the public of Bristol and veterans’ organizations of their actions, either by news article or by specific parish bulletins. Then maybe the flag bearers could have been salvaged and picked up by the families of the veterans.
Carello said the City of Bristol cares about its veterans and wants to see them properly honoured.
“Bristol is first and foremost a city that has loved and respected its veterans, whether in times of peace or war,” he said.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or [email protected]