My father is buried at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, IL, its just south of Joliet, about an hour south of Chicago. Its an impressive place, more sobering that celebratory but its special none the less.
My father was a proud Navy man, served five years in the Atlantic aboard the USS Calcaterra (DER 390), & primarily on the USS Forrest Sherman (DD 931), between 1958 & 1962. His final Navy days had him in Cuba for the “Bay of Pigs” & Cuban Missile Crisis”. He proudly wore Navy caps, subscribed to the ‘Tin Can Sailor”, which is dedicated to sailors who served on destroyer ships and often gave donations to the Disabled American Veterans. He was also an American Legion member. His military service defined him and there was no prouder achievement for him than the time he gave to his country.
When he passed last April and the funeral director mentioned the option of having my father buried in a National Cemetery, I knew it would be what he wanted. And after some complications, a lot of paper work and even a delay in his burial, he was given full military rights in his interment.
It was then I understood the precision of the military and have been so proud of my dad and his service to our country.
Since I live in Will County and only 20 minutes from Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, I go visit my father often, like I said its an impressive facility and I’ve been to a lot of cemeteries but none like this.
You drive in off of Route 53 (a noisy, truck filled, highway like road), and you are greeted by monuments of military statue and its a environment of respect and dedication to those who have served and are no longer with us.
Its strong reminder that “freedom is not free” and many here paid the ultimate price to keep us safe.
But this was my first visit during Memorial Day weekend and the respect level goes up even more. Every grave has a US flag on it and its precise the measurement between flags and between graves. As you continue top drive into the cemetery the rows of graves is astounding, you may have seen pictures or footage of this graveyard, or Arlington National in Virginia or one of the many other National cemeteries but you are just floored by how orderly this place is.
It is clean, manicured to perfection and you feel the reverence towards our brave men and women in uniform who have served this country so well and are no longer with us.
I’ve memorized where my dad’s resting place is and every time I walk into section 6b its difficult. Sadness, pride and emotion run deep but seeing his headstone (pictured), gives me comfort and reminds me that (in the words of a good friend), he was the greatest man I ever knew.
And that all that fellow service men and women, were great too, hallowed ground doesn’t begin to describe this place.
And if you are ever fortunate to witness burial ceremony at a National Cemetery it is a site to behold. Volunteers give off a rousing 21 gun salute and the widow (or family), is given the shells from the bullets. A lone soldier on a bugle plays a solemn version of “Taps” and you are greeted by an officer who gives you condolences and quotes the Commander in Chief.
I’ve actually been to two such services, one for my dad and seven months later one for my wife’s uncle, whom I also visit every time I’m out there.
Since the loss of my dad and burial at this sacred place, I know have greater reverence for the military and give back to those organizations that support our men and women in uniform whenever I can. And it stems from my visits to Abraham Lincoln Cemetery.
I’m not trying to guilt anyone into any kind of false patriotism, just the opposite, this is like any kind of national monument or museum that should be seen to gain knowledge and understand the gravity of people in our military.
Yes for many of us this is personal since we have loved ones on the premises and going is part of our grieving and reverence to them.
But this is more about American history and its the quintessential example of “All gave some and some gave all”.
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