Ever wonder where the beautiful flowers come from resting on the graves of our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day?
There is one man who orchestrates the carefully planned remembrance of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
Brian Bancroft has been doing this for over a decade, and he has never asked for any recognition.
About two decades ago, Jesse, Bancroft’s son was playing at a Little League game. There were all sorts of families enjoying the game, but Bancroft was focusing on something deeper.
“This was when the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall was in Arkport. I noticed a lady walking down, and carefully looking for a name on the wall. I watched as she placed her hand on the wall, and realized she had found the loved one she lost,” he said. “She had lost her loved one in the war, and I noticed she didn’t have kids or grandkids. She had lost everyone, and made the sacrifice.”
Bancroft wanted to do something to honor this woman, so he began leaving flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers for Memorial Day. He had poppies he left at the Canaseraga Cemetery.
“A few years later a friend came to me, and told me about all of the veterans we have buried around here,” he said. “I wanted to do something for all of them. We got to talking about Jason Dunham in Scio, and how everyone feared he would be forgotten. Although I originally started in Canaseraga, because that is where my children grew up. I wanted to make a promise to a young marine that Jason Dunham would not be forgotten.”
Bancroft said the fear in these situations is that no one is going to remember these brave men and women in a few years.
Bancroft travels all over keeping his promises, and leaving beautiful flowers on the graves of the fallen warriors.
Zack Smith of Hornell lost his life in combat a few years back, and he was good friends with Jesse in the service. For this reason Bancroft visits his cemetery as well.
“I saw a need for everyone who made the sacrifice to get flowers,” he said. “The Mount Morris American Legion has helped me a lot. The Dansville American Legion has helped donate. I have lots of family that helps me with the Greenmount Cemetery in Dansville, because there are a couple thousand up there.”
Bancroft spent nearly $5,000 on flowers last year. He normally uses about $1,000 of his own money. There are about 4,400 graves he leaves flowers on in the area.
“There are some I go to because I promised that I would. I really enjoying doing this,” he said. “I can’t do it without the help of my family. There are a lot of cemeteries to go too. I was honored in Dalton. Dalton is all Civil War Veterans, and I thought who else is going to visit them. I go to the little cemeteries every year.”
Bancroft spent many years doing this in secret, because he liked the idea of people believing in humanity. As long as there was no name attached to the kind gesture it could be anyone doing this.
“This makes it all worth it to me. I like the idea that anyone can be the one leaving the flowers,” he said. “I like when people go to visit their loved ones, and see the flowers on the graves. That makes it all a job well done.”
Boncraft said that his sons agreed to carry on the tradition for three years after he passes away.
“It is a really nice thing to do. I normally like to talk to them while I am there,” he said. “There are some who see me there, and they will tell me the stories of the soldiers. I really like hearing the stories when I can.”
Boncraft starts the Friday before Memorial Day and works hard until Sunday. He wants to make sure they are all there before. Boncraft couldn’t continue this if he wasn’t getting help financially from Mount Morris and Dansville legions.
“Sgt. Devin Snyder is the hardest one for me to go to every year,” Boncraft said. “It is the most emotional one for me to go to. She was such a beautiful girl. It is the most tragic to me, because she was military police. She was not there to get shot at. Most of these soldiers just tried to make people’s lives better over there, and they were getting shot and killed for it.”
Boncraft orders the thousands of red carnations in advance, and he enjoys leaving them on the graves of our soldiers.
“I wish I was a millionaire, because then I would do a lot more,” he said. “There are a lot of years I can’t afford it. I made a promise, and that is what matters most to me.”
“I hope to be able to do this for many more years. I want to see this kindness everywhere,” Boncraft continued. “I would love it if someone else took this idea, and started doing it in their hometown. I am extremely humbled by it. Although I am not a veteran I know they have done an awful lot for me. I am a firm believer that the veterans have done their best to defend us. I really feel I owe them.”
Boncraft said that someone’s child is over there right now making the ultimate sacrifice for us, and we should do what we can to support our troops.