Commonwealth Journal

November 10, 2013

City honors veterans at Somerset Cemetery ceremony

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — Take a walk through the Somerset Cemetery, and it’s easy to see the sacrifices made by those who fought to defend our country.

Representatives from every major battle in America’s history dating back to the War of 1812 are buried at the cemetery, which sprawls across the hills located just off West Columbia Street that overlook part of the city’s busy U.S. 27 strip.

And on Saturday, around 70 people remembered those who are buried there, and honored those veterans who are still among us, in observance of Veterans Day, which is this Monday.

“We gather today to pay tribute to those in attendance who have served our country and to remember our soldiers who are no longer with us,” said Somerset Cemetery Manager Tricia Neal during the ceremony. “Buried in the acres surrounding us are soldiers who served in wars throughout American history.”

Neal said veterans are buried at the Somerset Cemetery who served in wars dating back 200 years — the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

“Many of these soldiers died fighting for causes in which they believed, many died in foreign lands, fighting for people they had never met,” Neal continued. “Some were buried in those foreign lands and the bodies of others  bodies were never recovered. But we remember them all in places such as this cemetery, where grave markers tell a brief story of these soldiers’ time on earth.”

Saturday’s ceremony marks the first city-led Veterans Day event to be held, and its organizers hope to continue the tradition.

“We want to honor veterans every year,” said Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler “We will never, as long as we’re here, ever forget ... Veterans Day.”

The event featured the Presentation of Colors by the Pulaski County High School JROTC, the Presentation of the Service Flags by Southwestern High School JROTC, and renditions of “God Bless America” and “The Star Spangled Banner” by the Somerset High School Advanced Choir.

The American Legion Post No. 38 Honor Guard, made up of local veterans, carried out the flag dedication ceremony and the flag raising on the cemetery’s new flagpole — made possible by the Woodmen of the World insurance agency — along with a rifle volley and the performance of TAPS.

Somerset’s own U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers was also in attendance, and Pulaski County Deputy Judge-executive Rita Curry spoke a few words as well about the meaning of Veterans Day.

“I could talk all afternoon and not tell you what you mean to me,” Curry said to those veterans who attended the ceremony. “I get tears in my eyes over veterans and the people that show that kind of bravery, and so I just want to say thank you all.”

And in the week leading up to Saturday’s event, volunteers with the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children and Somerset Cub Scout Pack No. 134 helped to mark the graves of veterans with American flags — an effort that Neal said will hopefully be a permanent one.

 “It’s a small way of honoring those who sacrificed to make our country what it is today,” Neal said during the ceremony.

Rogers closed out the ceremony’s main remarks, and said a community’s commitment to respecting those who came before us can be seen in how it honors its veterans.

That includes those who sacrificed all and those who are still living.

“You can tell by the neatness of this beautiful cemetery that we do indeed respect those who went before and paved the way for the rest of us,” said Rogers. “That’s especially true for the veterans and those who died for our nation.”

Rogers also relayed an experience he had when he first took officer as congressman decades ago. Rogers said he helped an elderly man locate his son’s grave at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The man’s son, who served during World War II, had died a decorated soldier after he helped his crew escape from an attack.

Rogers said the man’s simple act — unfurling an old, tiny American flag to place on his son’s grave — reminded him not only of the sacrifices made by those who serve, but by those who are left behind at home.

“I’m sure he had that flag from 1944,” Rogers said, about the elderly man. “ ... We’ve got people here at home who make it possible for this country to send those men and women to war. So this ceremony, for me, is a salute to our veterans, but also a salute to those who served at home and stay at home, helping that soldier ... do his or her job.”