Resting Place of Heroes

With Veterans Day approaching I recently visited the beautiful National Veterans Cemetery in Canton. While there, I couldn’t help but think about the simple yet stirring words of the president many people think was our greatest- - Abraham Lincoln – as he dedicated the Gettysburg Battlefield as a cemetery 150 years ago, almost to the day.

Lincoln’s message on that day was simple: don’t let the sacrifices of the soldiers be wasted or forgotten. The ideals they died for must be carried on by us, the living.

With row upon row of precisely placed, white granite headstones, visitors to the National Cemetery in Cherokee County are clearly cognizant of the role the veterans buried here played in ensuring our freedoms and those of millions of others around the world. Their days in uniform range from long ago service during World War II to those killed in action recently in Iraq and Afghanistan who, in Lincoln’s words, “Gave their last full measure of devotion.”

The National Cemetery at Canton, one of 123 nationwide, opened in 2006 and the Veterans Administration says it will provide a final resting place for Georgia’s veterans for the next 50 years.

Strolling along the hilltops of the 775-acre site with extraordinary views of hills, valleys and Lake Allatoona, people visiting the gravesites of loved ones or friends, are awestruck by the beauty of the place and the solemn respect that is evident in the care of the manicured grounds, the caring respect given by staff to families of deceased veterans, and the knowledge that those who are interred served honorably, often heroically, to preserve this American way of life for the rest of us.

Carol Norman lives in Roswell. Her late husband John —a Korean War veteran was interred here on a biting cold January Day in 2008. Despite the weather, Mrs. Norman said, “It was a beautiful experience. I’ll never forget it.”

Similarly, Lee Harrison of Woodstock, who’s Vietnam veteran husband, Jack, was laid to rest in the Canton Veterans Cemetery in 2010, said the peacefulness of the surroundings and the honor and respect accorded those resting there permeates everything.

One unidentified person, commenting online, said during her visits to the Canton National Cemetery that she “…never felt closer to heaven.”

Georgia has another, older, national cemetery located in Marietta. It was established in 1866 in order to find “a suitable resting place” for around 10,000 Union soldiers killed during General Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. Marietta Cemetery was the final resting place for tens of thousands of Georgia Veterans until late 2006.

For information regarding eligibility for burial in a national Cemetery visit www.va.gov.

Marty Farrell lives in Cumming and can be reached at martysyracuse@yahoo.com

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