A Veteran's Nightly Tribute to the Fallen

On a strip of sand at the southern tip of New Jersey,there's a flagpole where 89-year-old Marvin Hume gathers a group each night.

"Every day I do the service, it's just as important to me as the day before and right on back," Marvin tells CBS News national correspondent Jim Axelrod.

Every veteran's casket is draped in a flag. Each night, here on Sunset Beach, one of those casket flags is raised in honor of a different service member.

Marvin's flag ceremony draws a big audience.

"I get hundreds," he says. "There's so many people there you can't see the ocean. God Bless America"

He's booked every night -- through this summer and next summer as well -- by families wanting to honor their heroes.

This all started when Marvin bought the property from a man who'd been raising and lowering the flag each night. He asked Marvin to continue. Marvin, a Navy vet, said sure, thinking about some buddies he lost in World War II

"I just happen to be in the right place - simple as that," Marvin says.

Hume kept his promise - and then some. He's been conducting this sunset ceremony on this beach seven days a week - from Memorial Day until mid-October - for the last 38 years.

That adds up to nearly 6,000 ceremonies.

On this night, June McKenna's father-in-law George McKenna, another WWII Navy vet, was being remembered.

June was there. No surprise; she's there every night - even when she doesn't know the vet.

"It's always emotional," June says. "Sometimes the flags have bullet holes in them. By the grace of God we're all here because of their sacrifice."

As for Marvin, he says it never gets routine for him.

"You go out there and there's no two alike," he says.

How long will he continue to do this?

"Til I drop, sure," Marvin says. "That's what keeps me alive."

And that's what keeps alive the memory of those who served - reminding us all that the Fourth of July is more than just a long summer's weekend.

To submit an idea for The American Spirit send us an e-mail: theamericanspirit@cbsnews.com
  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.

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