Bob McAlpine leaned over, spun the flag stick deeper into the ground, and took a step back to look over his brother’s grave.
He saw that flag ripple as the wind pushed through, whipping it out and about, and as he raised his eyes, he saw it was waving in a sea of thousands of others all around at Sunset Memorial Gardens — one at every headstone marked with military service.
“We just thought we’d come out and pay our respects today,” he said. “I’m glad we did.”
The sun rose over Memorial Day in Odessa on Monday, and with it rose the American flag, during celebrations and memorial services across the city.
Earlier Monday morning, with the sun still low, the flag was raised at VFW Post 4372 on Andrews Highway during a ceremony and breakfast to start the day.
A few hours later and a few miles east, hundreds of engines revved at the 19th Ride to Remember, as motorcyclists gathered to pay tribute in their own way at the Permian Basin Veteran Memorial.
And after they rumbled off, families started trickling into the Midland Army Air Field Museum just down the block.
All for good reason, McAlpine could see, there at the cemetery early Monday afternoon.
He stood over his brother, James McAlpine, who Bob said earned a Purple Heart from World War II after he was shot by a sniper in the Black Forest in Germany. Bob, 85, said James carried that bullet in him until he died in Odessa in 2015.
It was in the honor of veterans who passed, like James, that observers across Odessa took time to reflect on Monday, including several visitors there at Sunset — and the ROTC groups at Permian and Odessa High, who Sunset general manager Bill Vallie said spent the morning posting miniature flags at every headstone denoting military service.
There was a countless amount of them, ranging in the thousands. Vallie said there are more than 25,000 graves at Sunset, and, easily, a third of them could be marked to honor veterans.
Monday, a flag waved over each one of those, to match the 26 permanent flag fixtures that fly over the 26 buried at Sunset who died in combat.
It was a beautiful sight, Bob McAlpine agreed.
“I think it’s a real nice tribute that they do that,” he said.