Monday, May 28, 2012
As I've mentioned in a past post or two, I've always loved cemeteries. I find them to be peaceful, contemplative and nearly always beautiful places, filled with interesting history, personal stories, and art. (And in the case of Sheridan Municipal Cemetery, wildlife too)...
a wild turkey
The cemetery is only a few minutes away by bicycle from where we're currently living, so I've been spending a lot of time there this spring. It's a quiet oasis in an otherwise noisy town; sometimes the only sounds I hear are birdsong and the occasional tinkle of wind chimes decorating someone's grave. And like most community cemeteries, it commands one of the most beautiful spots in town...
Sheridan had no cemetery until 1890, when a group of area businessmen formed the Mount Hope Cemetery Association, selling many of the original plots for $5. Many people who had been buried elsewhere were moved to the cemetery (later purchased along with some adjoining property by the town and renamed Sheridan Municipal Cemetery), which now contains over 19,000 graves.
As I've explored it, usually with camera in hand, I've found some interesting graves. Some beautiful, some historic, some especially poignant, some that piqued my curiosity. Many of them have inspired me to do some research on the internet to learn more about the people or event the grave commemorates.
I plan to share some of the more intriguing and photogenic headstones I've found in a future post, but I thought Memorial Day was the perfect time to share these particular photos I took during the past few weeks of memorials to a few of Sheridan's war dead. I didn't take these with a Memorial Day post in mind, and not every American war is represented. Though I've found graves of those who served in the Civil War, the Spanish American War, the Korean War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they weren't killed in action so I'm not including them here. Because although Memorial Day, officially proclaimed in 1868, has come in more recent years to be thought of as a day to commemorate any and all who have died, its original intent was to remember and honor those who gave their lives in service to their country. And its with that original purpose of Memorial Day in mind that I'm sharing these photos, along with a few of my own thoughts and/or whatever information I've been able to find about them...
How especially poignant that Pvt Yardley died on the eve of his 23rd birthday, and only a month before the Nov 11 Armistice that ended the war.
This was all I could find online about Pvt James Mates, Jr (I'd guess he died in the Influenza Epidemic of 1918), and I could find nothing specifically about Ambulance Company 250 or the 13th Sanitary Train with which he served. But I did find this info about Sanitary Trains in general, from the predictably dry US Army Medical Department Office of Medical History's Field Service Regulations:
The sanitary train is composed of a train headquarters, ambulance companies, field hospital companies, camp infirmaries, medical supply unit, and reserve medical supplies...
The sanitary personnel of organizations must remain with it when advancing into action and during the whole course of an engagement. Accordingly the wounded will be treated where their wounds are received, and the sanitary personnel will pause, if the organization is moving, only so long as is necessary to give appropriate first aid...
Not surprisingly, casualties among ambulance train personnel were high.
Private Groska was an artilleryman who perished in a shipwreck just a month before the Armistice. He was one of several hundred American troops aboard the troopship HMS Otranto, bound from NY to Scotland (from which the troops would be sent to the Western Front) when it collided with another troopship, the HMS Kashmir, in a heavy storm between the northeast coast of Ireland and western isles of Scotland on Oct 6, 1918. Though nearly 600 were rescued by the HMS Mounsey, 431 others (351 American troops, 80 British crew members) were lost at sea. Many men were badly injured in the collision, and were hospitalized in Belfast. I have a feeling that was the fate of Pvt Groska, who probably died of injuries four days after the collision. The bodies of those who drowned were recovered and buried in a spot overlooking the bay where their ship went down, while many of those who died in Belfast hospitals were buried in the Belfast City Cemetery. In 1920, the remains of the American servicemen were exhumed and returned to the US for burial.
First Battalion Commander of the 501st Parachute Regiment, 101st Airborne Divison, Lt Col Carroll was killed in the D-Day invasion just two weeks before his 30th birthday. His father Arthur, who is buried beside his son's empty grave (Lt Col Carroll is buried in Normandy), died at age 52 exactly one week later, on June 13. I can't help but wonder if that's the day he and his family received the chaplain visit or telegram notifying them of the death of their son in combat, and can't fathom the extent and depth of grief suffered by Mrs. Carroll (who lived into old age and is buried there as well). The losses and sacrifices of war extend beyond the tragic death of the service member.
I could find nothing about PFC Novicki, but he was likely killed in a German counter-offensive that took place on July 6 in Beau Coudray, one of 10,000 casualties in 11 days of fighting on the grueling and bloody march to Paris following the Normandy invasion exactly one month earlier.
FC2 Lyle Realing was lost at sea in the torpedoing and sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the last major US Naval ship sunk by enemy action in WWII and an infamous naval disaster that killed nearly 3/4 of her crew. You can read a first-hand account from one of the 317 survivors, the ship's Chief Medical Officer, here, and see a photo of FC2 Realing here (fifth photo from the bottom).
Shot and killed near Cam Lo, Vietnam just two days shy of his 20th birthday, Marine Corporal Walter J. Washut was awarded the Silver Star posthumously for "conspicuous gallantry in action." Our local paper conducted this interview about him with his high school best friend (and fellow Marine) on Memorial Day six years ago. Posted beside Cpl. Washut's headstone is a copy of the citation that accompanied his Silver Star...
May they and all victims of war and violence rest in peace,
and may we all learn at last to live in peace.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.
~ Siegfried Sassoon
from his poem, "Suicide in the Trenches," 1918
Written during his decorated military service in WWI
- INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
- MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL ~ John Berendt
- MY NOTORIOUS LIFE: A NOVEL ~ Kate Manning
- ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
- QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING ~ Susan Cain
- THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
- THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY ~ Erik Larson
- THE SHADOWS, KITH AND KIN ~ Joe R. Lansdale
- THE TIPPING POINT ~ Malcolm Gladwell
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.
~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"