by Chris Harris
Every veteran is deserving of respect — both those still with us, and those who have since marched into the mists of memory.
That’s why there will be a special ceremony both types this Veterans Day weekend at the Somerset Cemetery to both remember and thank hometown veterans.
The event will be held Saturday, November 9 at 3 p.m. at the Somerset Cemetery on West Columbia Street in downtown Somerset.
“It’s a dual thing,” said Tricia Neal, Somerset Cemetery manager. “We’re remembering the veterans who have passed away that are buried in the cemetery, and we’re also honoring the veterans who come to the event.
“I’m always looking for ways to expose the cemetery to the community ... to let them know it’s here and how much history is here,” she added. “I know there’s so many veterans in the cemetery, and I’ve always wanted to come up with so many ways to honor them as well. It just kind of came together: Why not have an event to get people in the cemetery to honor the living and those who have passed on?”
Neal mentioned that out of the 11,000 or so people buried in the Somerset Cemetery, her research has found more than 500 veterans among them — from all sorts of American military efforts over the years.
“There’s a Mexican-Amrerican War veteran here,” said Neal, referring to the conflict between the U.S. and Mexico from 1846 to 1848 following the country’s annexation of Texas — dating back to before the American Civil War. “Here I was, so proud having Civil War Veterans, then I found out about this. I can say we have veterans from the Mexican War to Vietnam, and everything in-between.”
But those are just the ones she knows of — it’s possible there are more that aren’t marked as such or haven’t been uncovered.
As part of the week leading up to ceremony, the cemetery will be marking the graves of all the veterans with flags.
“We’re going to have extra flags available at the ceremony,” said Neal. “If somebody comes and sees that we’ve not gotten to their family member, they can take a flag and put it there (by the grave), and we’ll get to them the next year. We’ll keep adding to it and make sure we get as many veterans as we can in future years.”
Neal said the plan is to replace the flags a year from now if they’ve been broken or taken.
Among those participating in the Saturday ceremony is Somerset’s own Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers — “When I called, he said he hadn’t been asked to do many veterans-related things lately, so he seemed pleased to have been asked,” said Neal — and Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler.
“(Girdler) had a really good reaction (to the idea of the ceremony) and was very excited about it,” said Neal. “He encouraged me to go ahead and plan it big and make it an annual thing.”
The ceremony will have participating from the ROTC units of both Pulaski County and Southwestern High Schools. The Somerset High School choir will also come and perform some musical numbers. Neal hopes to be able include Somerset Christian School in the future also.
The American Legion post 38 Honor Guard will also be present, and at the end of the ceremony will do a specification dedication for the new flagpole and American flag that will be going up, made possible by the Woodmen of the World insurance society.
“The reason why we’re getting a new flagpole is that we’ve had a pole for years at the center of the cemetery, and the trees around it have grown up so tall that you couldn’t see the flag for the trees,” said Neal. “We’ve got one now that should last a bit longer.”
Volunteer help is crucial in making the ceremony a reality. Neal is counting on the offered services of the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children this week in putting out the veterans’ flags.
That group will likely get most of the work accomplished, said Neal, but if there are any volunteering opportunities still available next weekend and you would like to participate, please call the Somerset Cemetery at 606-679-3473 of visit the “Somerset Cemetery — Somerset, Kentucky” page on Facebook.com.
Veterans who come to the event are also invited to attend a desert reception on Monday, November 11 at 6:30 p.m. at The Highlands Assisted Living Community on Norfleet Drive.
Anyone interested in attending can contact Ashley Stamper at The Highlands at 606-678-5865.
Also, there will be programs passed out at the Saturday ceremony featuring a list of businesses offering special discounts to veterans and their families if they bring in the flyer.
“We’re getting a pretty good response to that so far,” said Neal, who noted that several businesses are participating. The deadline to be one of those businesses is Monday; if interested, contact Neal at 606-679-3473.
Somerset Police will be helping with parking at the Saturday event. Attendees are encouraged to arrive early to ensure optimal parking.
“If you come early or stay late, just wander around the cemetery and stop at some of the people’s graves,” advised Neal. “There are some really interesting stories that can be learned just by looking at the tombstones. Some (veterans) were killed in action, some went down with the ship, so they aren’t actually buried here, but have markers here.
“It’s just a good time to relect and thank those veterans who have come before us,” she added.