As someone who believes that a society is judged at least in part by the respect it shows its dead, there’s little I find more depressing than a forgotten, dilapidated cemetery.
Perhaps even harder to stomach coming across the graves of veterans that have fallen into disrepair.
To see the final resting places of men who once put their lives on the line – and sometimes gave those lives, in defense of their country – and who are now effectively consigned to oblivion does a great disservice to our nation.
Apparently, others feel the same, as well.
Witness Joseph Hoesch and Martin Neamon, a pair of Vietnam-era veterans from Pennsylvania.
When the pair visited the Chartiers Cemetery plot in Carnegie, Pa., where 133 Union veterans are interred, on a grey day in November 2010, they found it disheartening, according to KDKA.
“We came upon the stones, and it was probably the most depressing thing I have ever seen,” Hoesch said. “For someone who has an interest in the Civil War to see something like this really is heart-wrenching.”
Both men are re-enactors with a resurrected GAR post in Carnegie and they pledged to raise $15,000 to reset and in some cases replace battered and weathered stones.
“The good news,” Neamon says, “is we have raised $8,000 so far. We need another seven.”
Two Medal of Honor recipients are buried at Chartiers Cemetery: Captain James Carey and Sergeant James Bronson.
Carey, a native of Ireland, served in the US Navy, and earned his honor following the War Between the States. In 1870, while a member of the crew of USS Huron, he saved three fellow crewmen from drowning and was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Bronson, an African-American, was born into slavery in Pennsylvania, likely in the late 1830s. He joined the 5th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment in 1863.
At the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm on Sept. 29, 1864, Bronson had risen to the rank of first sergeant. His regiment was among a division of black troops assigned to attack the center of the Confederate defenses at New Market Heights.
The attack was met with intense Confederate fire and stalled after reaching a line of abatis. Many of the regiment’s officers had been killed or wounded in the charge, including the regimental commander and all of Company D’s officers. Bronson responded by taking command of Company D, rallying the remaining men and leading a renewed attack against the Southern lines.
He was awarded the Medal of Honor on April 6, 1865 for his actions during the battle.
All of these men will soon be honored in the manner they deserve, KDKA reported.
“They can’t speak for themselves,” Hoesch said. “Very few family members are left. We’re their voices now. If we don’t speak for them, who will?”
4 thoughts on “Vietnam vets strive to honor past warriors”
During the summers between college courses I worked in a cemetery sprucing up old graves. It felt like a noble job and it was lovely to work outdoors at the same time.
I too have spent time sprucing up old graves and it does indeed feel like noble work.
One of the things I enjoy about it is that I can do it alone and no one else has to know that I’m doing it. My only reward is that I’m doing something to keep alive the memory of someone who’s no longer around, and maybe bringing some happiness to whatever family remains.
Thanks for your note, Melissa.
It’s so sad seeing the state of many cemeteries. It is not unusual for me to come across graves from the early 1900s, busted to pieces, fallen over (backwards and forward), knocked about and some extremely fancy ones have had the decorative part on top (resembling a pole) broken off.
It is sad, particularly when vandalism is involved. I’m always a little surprised to hear of teens being caught vandalizing cemeteries, too.
When I was a teen, you couldn’t have gotten me with a quarter mile of a graveyard at night, superstitious fool that I was.
Also, I think too many people today live in the present, unfortunately, and have no appreciation for the past, even when it involves their own family.
Thanks for writing, J.G.