Hi again everyone,
This week I’m continuing my nostalgic phase with a stop at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery located south of Mandan on Highway 1806 and overlooking the Missouri River. If you recall my post from last week about the ghost town of Mannhaven located on the Missouri River, this Cemetery is about 50-60 miles down river.
You might be asking why would I write about a cemetery as it seems kind of morbid. It might be but this cemetery is the final resting place for my Dad, Donald and my father-in-law, Walter Hlebechuk as well as thousands of other veterans who entered military service from North Dakota. Here are a couple of photos of their grave sites.
A little history of this Cemetery. The construction of the North Dakota Veteran’s Cemetery was approved by the North Dakota State Legislature in 1989 under the North Dakota Adjutant General. Soon after, 35 acres of land was purchased and the cemetery opened for it’s first burial in July 1992. Since then over 6000 North Dakota veterans and their spouses have been buried here.
We have visited the Cemetery on numerous occasions over the past eight years. We’ve attended a couple of Memorial Day services and the Wreaths Across America event in mid-December. A couple of years ago, we camped at the Ft. Lincoln State Park that is about a half mile from the Cemetery. Here are a few scenes from that event. The top two photos show the dignitaries and some of the several hundred people that attended. The bottom photo is of a Native American drumming group from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation located south of the Cemetery, offering tribute to all deceased veterans.
The following are a couple of additional photos of our Dad’s grave sites decorated for Memorial Day.
As mentioned above, I’ve attend a couple of the Wreaths Across America ceremonies held in mid-December. Wreaths Across America is an annual event held at all National and State Veterans Cemeteries on the third Saturday in December. It’s goal is to honor deceased veterans at the holidays and teach others of the sacrifices made by veterans during their service to country. The North Dakota sponsor is the Bismarck Civil Air Patrol. They collect funds for the wreaths and organize volunteers to distribute the wreaths. Being North Dakota, the weather at this time of year is usually oppressing at best. This year’s ceremony was first postponed then cancelled due to the cold, snowy weather. But the volunteers still laid the wreaths at all the tombstones, some had to be uncovered due to the snow. Here are a few photos from a couple of years ago.
When visiting our Dad’s, I often stop by the grave site of my second cousin, Merrill Richter. Merrill and I were about the same age, grew up and attended the same church together and even worked together one summer hauling bales for a neighbor. We graduated from high school the same year but went to different schools. Merrill was drafted into the Marine Corp and did a tour in Vietnam. I don’t know this for a fact but I believe his war time service was at least partially responsible for his early death. When walking around the cemetery, I often run across grave sites of people I know like Banks Sieber, the Bottineau County Agent, Charlie Edgerly, my dairy judging coach at NDSU and former Governor of North Dakota, Bill Guy. My Grandpa Isaak introduced me to Governor Guy in 1961 at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Basin Electric plant near Stanton. To me he was a celebrity, always was and always will be. We could use someone like him in our current political environment.
Someday our Mom’s will also be buried here when the time comes. And Donna and I have made plans to make this our final resting place in the same cemetery as our parents. Yes, I’ll be back in North Dakota for eternity and overlooking the beautiful Missouri River that is so important to me.
To end this post, here’s the poem written in 1915 by Dr. John McCrae, a Canadian of Scottish heritage (we visited his family home in the Highlands last May). McCrae wrote this poem after presiding over the funeral of his friend and fellow soldier who was killed at the Second Battle of Ypres in western Belgium. The red poppies referred to in the poem have become a powerful memorial symbol of those who have died in battle. Dr. McCrae never made it home from the Great War, he died of pneumonia in January 1918 near the end of the war. This poem is often recited at Memorial Day observances around the world.
“In Flanders Fields”
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
Take care and until next week,