Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Walk Amongst Soldiers....

 This was written and posted on my Facebook page about three years ago.  It chronicles a Sunday walk that turned into a show of respect to those Bath Countians who had paid the ultimate sacrifice during wartime or were veterans of the many conflicts our nation has endured.


On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, my son TJ and I took one of our usual walks into town.  Not far from our house is the Owingsville Cemetery, a place TJ loves to walk through.  He is fascinated by the grave markers and always asks whose name is on each one as we pass.  The walk around the memorial grounds is calming to me; it is very quiet and a serene there, with a view of the mountains and hills to the East that puts a person in a relaxed mood.  It is also an easy place to walk with the kids; no cars zooming by to worry about, just a leisurely strolling area. Lately, though, I have noticed several grave markers that have fallen over or have cut grass or other debris obscuring the names. Many graves stand forgotten due to their age and ancestors who have passed on or do not live in the area.
While TJ and I were walking, he darted up the hill into a section of old, tall monolithic graves that dated from the early 1800's to the 1920's.  He asked his usual whose name was inscribed, and I noticed one in particular that was a Civil War Veteran.  I brushed off the grass that covered the name and read the inscription, the person buried there was a member of the 14th Kentucky Mounted Rifles, a Confederate unit in the Civil War.  I told TJ that it was a soldier and he was on a mission from there, going from grave to grave looking for soldiers. A short distance away, I found a metal marker face down.  After I turned it over and cleaned it off some, it told of another Civil War Soldier, James Willeroy, who was a Lieutenant with the Northern Virginia Army's 13th Division and was killed in 1862.  The rest of the inscription read, "Will some loving hand please decorate this lonely grave, is the request of his only surviving brother now living in a distant state."  It was at that point I felt some sympathy for the souls buried under this ground I was standing on.  Here this grave marker told of a plea for someone to maintain this site, and it was lying broken on the ground, forgotten in history.  I replaced the marker as best as I could, then moved on.  I was now intrigued and wanted to see just how many more soldiers who had been lost in history lay in the ground around me.  TJ would run over and find a tell tale white marker and ask if the person was a soldier, and after I would come look at the grave, indeed it was.  TJ was getting into the mode I was in, cleaning off the grass and debris along with me.  We found many graves of soldiers from both sides of the Civil War, The Mexican-American War, World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and one of the most recent, a soldier from Owingsville who was killed in Iraq in 2007.  TJ and I wandered through the sections of the cemetery cleaning off as many grave sites as we could, I took the time to read what conflict they served in if any and what unit they may have been with.  I found one grave of a sailor who was killed when his aircraft carrier was struck by suicide planes during one of the most famous battles in World War II, I'm sure few know the historical significance etched into that marble stone.
Alfred Crooks III was killed during a Kamikaze raid on the aircraft carrier Saratoga while operating in the Iwo Jima Theater of Operations during World War II. He was among 123 casualties in the attack.
The last place TJ and I walked to was the statue of the Confederate Soldier located almost in the back section of the cemetery.  Since 1907, the soldier has stood watch over his comrades in arms who lie buried around him; a poignant and valiant sight to see.
Each grave marker told a story in history, and told a lonely tale of many who have been lost to history and essentially abandoned.  Granted, during Memorial Day, there are flags put on many of the graves, but I'm sure many are left by the wayside.  Several of the markers have fallen over and broken, or have nearly been buried throughout the years, almost out of sight, out of mind.  I know that now when I take my walks through the cemetery, I will pay more attention to those names on the marble or concrete stones and look for the stories within them; and continue to preserve at least a fraction of the respect these soldiers still deserve by brushing off the stones or attempting to stand a broken stone back on its base.  Maybe if each person who visits their loved one's final place would also take an extra minute to do the same, these soldiers wouldn't be lost to history, it's just an idea ...


The soldier stands guard above his sleeping troops to insure they are not disturbed or harmed during his watch....
The soldier stands guard above his sleeping troops to insure they are not disturbed or harmed during his watch....

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