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Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam’

By the time 2008 rolled around we had lost so many servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, my thoughts turned to them at Memorial Day. I made about a dozen silk flower arrangements and with my husband, took the arrangements and our granddaughters to Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California, about 40 miles from our home.

We didn’t know anyone who was buried there, but we felt compelled to show our support and appreciation for those who had fought in the service of this country.

Riverside National Cemetery covers 921 acres, making it the third-largest cemetery managed by the National Cemetery Administration. Since 2000 it has been the most active cemetery in the system, based on the number of interments – 185,957 through fiscal year 2008. I read somewhere that there were 30 burials a day. Not all deceased were from the current wars, but vets from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, are included in that figure.

Riverside National Cemetery Gate

About three days before Memorial Day, volunteers in 2 hour shifts, for the next 72 hours, read aloud the names of all those interred in the cemetery. Sometimes only a maintenance man may be nearby to hear the names. Other times, visitors gather to listen silently.

Although there were hundreds of people – families, couples, singles – at the cemetery each year and many, many flowers had been placed on the graves, we found many grave markers that were barren of decoration or flowers. That’s where we placed our arrangements.

For some, such as the WWI servicemen and women, there were probably no relatives left who remembered them. For others, maybe sickness or distance kept survivors away. For still others, it’s possible there was no one who cared or it was too painful for them to visit.

We’ve gone for three years from 2008, missing one year in 2010 because of my broken leg.

Last year, there were small flags flying at every grave marker that we could see.  (Photos at top and at the end.)

Each time we visit, it is a strange juxtaposition of the life and energy the visitors bring with them and the silence and finality of the lives of the tens of thousands buried here.

As we drove home, I could not help reflecting on what could have been and feeling sorrow for their loss. But, I’m glad we went. Ours was but a tiny recognition of the day and the people, but gave us a connection to those who passed and to the history in which they lived and died.

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