Honoring our veterans by placing a flag or wreath at their headstones is a time-honored tradition. It shows our appreciation to them for their sacrifice. But as cemeteries grow larger, it becomes more and more difficult to find the headstones of veterans without a little bit of help. Luckily, for the Fairview Cemetery in Wahpeton, ND from some ingenious thinking.
Seth Simonson has been attending the annual flag placement ceremony at Fairview for three years now. Simonson is “an assistant college professor at North Dakota State College of Science, teach construction management technology, land surveying and civil engineering technology (Students, Stanko),” and this year he, and his students, put their minds to good use by creating a way to use GPS to place each of the 526 flags in the cemetery.
Simonson and his students to an Excel spreadsheet from the Fairview Cemetery of all the veterans interred and went to work. They used a drone to fly over the cemetery to get high resolution images of the cemetery and then used GPS coordinates to mark each veteran’s grave. When volunteers came out to place flags, they were provided with a web app that was available for the iPad and they would then be able to pinpoint the exact location of each grave. And the web app also allows you to go online to search for an individual at the cemetery.
On Thursday, May 25, volunteers came from the local high schools and community to help with the flag placement ceremony and Simonson was proud of that but he acknowledges that there is more work to be done.