Clarence “Code” Gomberg wound slowly through rows of tombstones at Adath Jeshurun Cemetery in Hampton, a bundle of American flags under one arm and a troubling thought on his mind.
“Say two years from now I can’t do this,” said Gomberg, 85, a World War II veteran from Stanton Heights. “Who’s going to pick up for me?”
For 60 years, Gomberg has visited cemeteries throughout Allegheny County to plant flags at veterans’ graves for Memorial Day. On a cloudy and unseasonably cool day last week, he paused at a tombstone, whittled the base of a flagpole with a pocketknife and slid it into a brass WWII veteran marker. Then he moved on to the next grave.
“It’s a hell of a thing to say that it’s not going to happen no more,” Gomberg said. “But I don’t know how it’s going to keep on going. It’s something that’s going to fall by the wayside, and I hate to say that. But what can you do?”
As veterans grow older, many wonder whether younger generations who have no direct connection to them or the wars they fought will allow the Memorial Day tradition of planting flags at graves to die out.
Many decades after finishing his own service, Clarence “Code” Gomberg continues to faithfully fulfill the duty to remember. He reminds us that we owe a debt that we can never begin to repay to the hundreds of thousands of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice — sacrifices made for the sake of each and every one of us, and for generations yet to be born. The very least we can do is to remember and honor them. Thank you, Mr. Gomberg, for remembering — and for reminding us of our duty on this Memorial Day.
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