A ceremony at Culpeper National Cemetery to honor unaccompanied veterans
By Debbie Eisele
The Culpeper National Cemetery provides a beautiful serene setting, benches, parking, rolling hills, and a place for service men and women to be interred, remembered and honored. Committal Services for loved ones and military honors are quite common on these grounds. However, each year there are numerous individuals laid to rest in this quiet setting without anyone in attendance; this scenario is about to change.
The Culpeper National Cemetery will conduct a special ceremony on October 19, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. to honor unaccompanied veterans. Unaccompanied veterans are individuals who have passed away (KIA or died) who have been buried and do not have family or loved ones to attend a service honoring their life, their military service, or the sacrifices they made for the United States. This standalone ceremony will incorporate volunteers, area residents, staff from Hero’s Bridge, special guests and more.
Matthew Priest, Director with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration for the Culpeper National Cemetery Complex, and volunteer Barbara Barclay have organized this event, and collaborated with funeral homes, veteran service organizations, law enforcement and other veterans for this ceremony.
This event will be conducted by veterans, cemetery personnel, volunteers, Hero’s Bridge (a nonprofit serving veterans age 65 and older), and residents within the local region who wish to stand by and honor these veterans.
The official name of the event is Culpeper National Cemetery Final Salute Ceremony, and this inaugural event will honor approximately 20 veterans laid to rest in the cemetery. The event will be held in the annex section of the Culpeper National Cemetery located at 501 East Chandler Street. Parking, seating and restrooms are available at the site.
The ceremony will include the presentation of colors by VFW Post 2524, National anthem (Ella Strickland), opening prayer ((Reverend Brown, SGM US Army retired), a guest speaker (Paul Needham (LTC USAF, retired), reading of the unaccompanied veteran names (Hero’s Bridge), military honors by VFW Post 2524, and a benediction (Reverend Brown, SGM US Army retired).
Mr. Priest said, “The importance of our Final Salute ceremony is to promise that no Veteran dies. We cannot change the inevitable of breath leaving our body for the last time, however we can ensure the legacy of our Veterans live forever. That is our mission at the National Cemetery Administration and our purpose for this ceremony.”
Culpeper National Cemetery and Hero’s Bridge welcome participation from regional residents. Any local citizen, veteran or vet-centric individual interested in attending should contact Culpeper National Cemetery. For more information please visit the Facebook event page Hero’s Bridge has created, or call the cemetery at 540-825-0027.
About Culpeper National Cemetery
Mission: “The National Cemetery Administration honors veterans with final resting places in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service to our nation.”
From 1862 through 1865, there were many battles fought throughout the region, and many soldiers who died in the Civil War. According to cemetery information, when the war concluded the federal government started a reburial program to locate the remains of all Union soldiers and have them interred in national cemeteries. The result was the National Cemetery Act of 1862 and the formation of Culpeper National Cemetery was established in 1867. The cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
The cemetery is situated on 30 beautiful acres and provides burial space for casketed and cremated remains. Over 275 burials are conducted each year. Director Matthew Priest also maintains Balls Bluff National Cemetery (Leesburg), Staunton National Cemetery, and Winchester National Cemetery.
Culpeper National Cemetery is open to the public daily from dusk until dawn. Visitors may utilize the gravesite locators to find specific gravesites. Many visitors do not have a specific individual to visit, but do pay tribute to all those interred at the cemetery. This is a solemn place, and the Culpeper National Cemetery requests visitors: “act in a dignified manner while on the cemetery grounds. For this reason, public gatherings of a partisan nature are not permitted. In addition, sports or recreational activities are not permitted.”