Remember our deceased veterans Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, May. 21, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

Several years ago, I made my first visit to Arlington National Cemetery. I had a specific destination: to visit the grave of one of our deceased neighbors.

She had served as a nurse during World War II and met her husband during the war. They decided to be buried at Arlington.

However, when she died, her husband was not able to attend the burial ceremony there because of his age and health. I happened to be traveling to Washington, D.C., for a meeting, so I told him I would visit her grave and take pictures.

Visiting Arlington Cemetery

I took the train from Washington, D.C., to Arlington by myself. It was a cloudy day, so I took an umbrella. I had a diagram of where the grave was located, and it turned out to be at the far end of the cemetery.

As I walked to the grave, it began to rain. I thanked God for my umbrella!

While I made my trek to the grave, there were two funerals going on in the cemetery. Horses pulled wagons holding flag-draped coffins. It was quite a moving experience to watch and hear the trumpet salutes honoring these veterans.

I was relieved to find the grave I sought and take pictures. I made prints of the pictures and gave them to our neighbor, who was very happy to see them.

He has since died himself and has joined his wife at Arlington.

Special gravesites

On my way out of the cemetery, I stopped at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy, who I learned placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on his first formal visit to Arlington on Armistice Day on November 11, 1961.

On that visit, President Kennedy spoke to more than 5,000 people gathered in the Memorial Amphitheater. His address began, “We meet in quiet commemoration of a historic day of peace. In an age that threatens the survival of freedom, we join together to honor those who made our freedom possible. . . . It is a tragic fact, that war still more destructive and still sanguinary followed [World War II]; that man’s capacity to devise new ways of killing his fellow men have far outstripped his capacity to live in peace with his fellow man.”

Eleven days prior to President Kennedy’s assassination, he returned to Arlington for the 1963 Armistice Day services. On November 22, 1963, while on a campaign trip to Dallas, he was shot and killed.

I learned that there are only two U.S. presidents buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The other is President William Howard Taft, who died in 1930.

Celebrating Memorial Day

Memorial Day will be observed on May 25 this year. Strictly speaking, Memorial Day is set aside as a day to remember those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. However, I think we can extend this observance to remembering all of our country’s veterans.

I remember that Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day, because flowers were laid on the graves of deceased soldiers.

Memorial Day shouldn’t be considered as just a day off work. We should do something on that day to remember those who have died, especially those who have served our country in the armed forces.

I usually attend Mass on Memorial Day at Resurrection Cemetery in Madison. There are also special Masses at cemeteries in Beloit and Janesville. The Memorial Day section in this week’s Catholic Herald has information on those Masses. Some of our parishes may also have Masses on Memorial Day. Please consider attending Mass on this day.

At the very least, please pray for all the deceased, especially our veterans. Here is one prayer that I found:

Prayer for Deceased Veterans

O God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, look kindly on your departed veterans who gave their lives in the service of their country. Grant that through the passion, death, and resurrection of your Son they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom and rejoice in you with your saints forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord.