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'Rose Campaign' delivered to thousands of grave markers at national cemeteries

Posted at 3:38 PM, May 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-25 20:29:14-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The floral tributes shut down by the pandemic, blossomed into reality Memorial Day at several national cemeteries.

Susan Williams first met Gregory Torres in 1973 while he was in the Air Force navigator training program. While the relationship didn't last, she never forgot him.

"Funny, smart and dedicated. One of the best people I've ever known," said Williams, 71.

In 1978, while stationed in Germany, Captain Torres died when his plane crashed during a training flight. He was buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

Williams, who lives in South Carolina, had plans to visit his grave this Memorial Day before the pandemic hit.

Covid-19 also turned the usual local services virtual. The flags laid out by the cemetery and flowers put out by a national nonprofit wouldn't happen this year.

"It made me feel crummy. He should be remembered in some way," said Williams.

Enter Jenelle Brinneman, a Valley Center florist who started a Gofundme campaign. After a 10news story, the campaign took off. Some $5,000 and countless roses, Brinneman and a small group of volunteers spent the morning of Memorial Day laying a single rose at some 4000 grave markers between Fort Rosecrans and Miramar cemeteries.

"We're laying down these roses and people are crying, thanking us. Just so cool to be part of this. The feeling is just overwhelming," said Brinneman.

Brinneman's group also set down 200 bouquets at gravestones, special requests submitted for Memorial Day. One of those requests came from Williams.

"I'm just thrilled these people are doing this and he was honored," said Williams.

Brinneman says the response was so incredible, she's hoping to make this an annual tradition.