Terry McLaughlin: Honoring our nation’s heroes | TheUnion.com

Terry McLaughlin: Honoring our nation’s heroes

Terry McLaughlin
Columnist

Nov. 11, 2018, marks the centennial of the end of World War I.

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, major hostilities were formally ended when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. This momentous event is celebrated as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in many other countries.

President Woodrow Wilson named Nov. 11 Armistice Day in 1919, and on May 13, 1938 it was declared a legal U.S. holiday.

Several years later, World War II required the largest mobilization of service members in the history of our country and it wasn't until 1954, after the conclusion of the Korean War, that the holiday was renamed Veterans Day. On this day we celebrate the heroism and sacrifice of those who have fought for our country, putting service above self, and particularly our living veterans.

According to a 2014 Survey by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Nevada County is home to approximately 8,300 veterans, many of whom served in conflicts in the Middle East, Vietnam, Korea and the various geographic theaters of World War II. While the nature of war has changed, the patriotism and sacrifice of our veterans remains steadfast, and they all deserve our gratitude and respect in life, and honor and dignity in their passing.

The Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration maintains nine National Veterans Cemeteries in California, located in Arvin, San Bruno, Los Angeles, Riverside, Dixon, San Francisco, Santa Nella and two in San Diego. In addition, five veterans cemeteries are run by the state of California, none of which are in Nevada County. To remedy this situation, Grass Valley Knights of Columbus, in conjunction with Saint Patrick Church and the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, are proposing a 72 niche veterans columbarium to be located at Saint Patrick's Cemetery on West Main Street in Grass Valley.

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A Columbarium is a place designed for the respectful storage of urns containing cremated remains. The term columbarium comes from the Latin "columba," which means "dove" and originally referred to compartmentalized housing for doves and pigeons, called a dovecote.

The proposal for Saint Patrick's Cemetery is for a six-sided granite structure, with 72 individual niches placed in six levels. A double niche would accommodate the remains of the veteran and his or her spouse, and a single niche would accommodate the veteran only. This columbarium would be the first and only resting place in Nevada County for the cremated remains of military veterans and their spouses in a cemetery section dedicated to those who served our country.

All military veterans and their spouses are eligible. It is not required that a veteran be Catholic to take advantage of this opportunity. For those who are Catholic, it may be important to know that Saint Patrick's Cemetery has been blessed by the Church and is considered consecrated ground.

This worthy project requires a commitment from at least 15 veterans, whose end of life plans are to be cremated, to purchase a niche by mid-January 2019 in order for Phase One to begin construction in the spring. Individual niches have been priced to be as affordable and accessible to all Veterans and their spouses as possible. If you are a veteran who wishes to be laid to rest in our beautiful community please contact Ed Wydra, USAF Retired, at 530-432-2591, or edwydra@comcast.net, to learn more about this opportunity to have your wishes honored.

Another outstanding tribute to our Veterans that will take place at the same location, Saint Patrick's Cemetery, is "Wreaths Across America," a National Remembrance Ceremony scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 15 at noon.

"Wreaths Across America" began in 1992 when the Worchester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, found themselves with a surplus of wreaths near the end of the holiday season. With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, the owner made arrangements for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. As plans were underway, a number of other individuals and organizations stepped up to help.

This annual tribute went on quietly for several years, until 2005, when a photograph of the headstones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the country via the internet. Thousands of requests poured in from people wanting to emulate the Arlington project at their National and State cemeteries. In 2006 ceremonies honoring our nation's heroes were held simultaneously in 230 locations. The year 2018 will mark the 27th year of this remembrance and Grass Valley's Captain John Oldham Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, is the proud sponsor of this program in our community.

The Remembrance Ceremony will begin at noon at the flagpole at Saint Patrick's Cemetery. Ceremonial wreaths will be laid to honor each of the armed services — Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Merchant Marines, and Coast Guard, as well as POWs/MIAs.

Those in attendance will then be offered the opportunity to lay a wreath (or several wreaths) on the headstones of the many veterans buried at this location and the adjoining Greenwood Memorial Gardens. This year's goal is to place 1,022 on veterans' graves in these two cemeteries.

Attending this moving tribute to our fallen heroes is an unforgettable experience and a lasting reminder of the sacrifices made by America's men and women in the service of our country.

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Nevada City, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com.

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