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American Flags Fill National Cemetery in South Florida


Employees from Pratt & Whitney West Palm Beach, along with their families and friends, were among the hundreds of South Floridians who recently helped place an American flag by each of the 19,048 gravesites at the South Florida National Cemetery.

There are 24,019 veterans and family members laid to rest in the 313-acre cemetery in Lake Worth, Florida. Dedicated in 2008, it is the fifth national cemetery built in Florida and the 125th in the nation.

“I am proud to work for a company that supports veterans and provides opportunities for employees to honor members of our community who have served our country,” said Ron Barthelt, who participated in the event along with his wife Elizabeth and son Ron.

“Paying tribute to our heroes with my family meant a lot to me,” he added. “We read many of the headstones together and were amazed at the incredible contributions these veterans made to our country. Sharing this experience with our son helped us explain to him that freedom is not free. We enjoy the freedom we have today because of the countless sacrifices made by the generations of servicemen and women represented in this national cemetery.”

Barthelt joined the West Palm Beach site last year as a radar engineer in the Military Engines Survivability Group after a 20-year career with the U.S. Air Force, retiring as technical sergeant from Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. He also was stationed in Germany and Oklahoma City. “I joined the U.S. Air Force because my father told me the real measure of someone’s life is in doing something bigger than yourself,” Barthelt said. “I am proud to have served my country.”

Ron Varney, an ACE lead in Barthelt's survivability group, and his wife Joyce also came to help. “Veterans have a special place in our hearts,” Varney said. “Both of our fathers served in WWII. To honor them at this event, we used one of my dad’s hammers to place the flags into the ground.

“Being a part of this special memorial and ensuring every gravesite has an American flag flying next to it is one small way we can show our profound gratitude to our veterans and their loved ones for defending our country and freedom,” Varney added. “It is our privilege and responsibility to honor them.”