Emily Domenech and the Travis Manion Foundation’s Ryan Manion are teaming up to launch The Honor Project to place flags on the graves of at least 4,000 of the fallen heroes buried in Arlington National Cemetery whose loved ones are unable to visit on Memorial Day weekend.
— Travis Manion Foundation (@TMFoundation) March 14, 2021
Domenech first started honoring graves on Memorial Day in 2020 “by chance” after COVID-19 restrictions at Arlington National Cemetery limited access to certain people with family passes.
“My grandfather was buried at Arlington Cemetery. He’s a veteran in three wars — World War Two, Korea, and Vietnam — and when I went to visit Arlington Cemetery in 2020 I knew it was going to be different,” Domenech explained, noting that none of the previously scheduled ceremonies, fanfare, or visitations were allowed to take place. “So as I turned in, I honestly thought of a few friends of mine who were veterans who I knew had fellow service members who were buried in Arlington, and I sent out a tweet and just offered to visit and photograph their graves on their behalf.”
Does anyone have buddies buried in Arlington who they would like visited today? Since only family members are allowed in, I would be honored to pay respects on your behalf…
— Emily Domenech (@ehdomenech) May 25, 2020
At first, Domenech planned to visit a few graves and then be on her way, but after she received “dozens of replies from people from all across the country,” she spent more than six hours at the cemetery.
“I only was able to get to 60, but as you know Arlington’s a big place and I really hope that this year we’ll be able to visit every request that comes in,” Domenech said.
It was social media, Domenech recently wrote, that “helped me reach hundreds of strangers and allowed thousands of others to watch it happen in real-time.”
Now, with the help of the Travis Manion Foundation and other veteran-focused organizations, the tradition carries on.
“Every year on Memorial Day, our messages are the same. It’s to learn their stories and share their stories, and this year we have a tangible way of doing that,” Manion said. “We’re going to have volunteers joining us all weekend for Memorial Day weekend to visit the graves at Arlington National Cemetery…I always say Memorial Day is a great day to have a barbecue spend it with friends, and it is the unofficial kickoff to summer, but it’s more than that. It’s remembering the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have given their lives and service to this country.”
ESPN “SportsCenter” host Scott Van Pelt recognized Domenech’s patriotic act of honoring the graves of the fallen last year, and praised her for her selflessness.
“People who we didn’t know fought for people who they didn’t know and here we were remembering them because of another person that we don’t know,” he marveled.