Sunday, May 24, 2015


"Oh beautiful for spacious skies... " 

     For me, those words from the patriotic Hymn, America the Beautiful, bring to mind the beauty of the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery at Rittman in Medina County.
     Capped as it is by those spacious skies and surrounded by wide-open rural vistas, this peaceful resting place is where my older brother was laid to rest just after July 4th of 2013. It was that occasion which had brought me to this National Cemetery for the first time.
     As a final resting place, this would have greatly pleased my brother had he been alive to see it. The hilltop setting was a place where breezes seemed to live full-time, and surrounding farmlands presented nothing to deter them.
     And so it was on that morning of my brother's burial, as the Avenue of Flags led us to a chapel-like setting for the simple elegance of an understated military service, the winds kicked up and seemed to raise the 50 flags atop the poles in brisk salutes.
     As we left our cars, we were escorted along a brick walkway, past a small honor guard of uniformed marines, into a "committal shelter;" an open-air gazebo-like structure made of stone, with rows of pew-like benches, and nestled into a serenely wooded setting. 
      During the service, the young marines removed the flag and folded it in the traditional ceremonial drill for presentation to me, and I knew this souvenir would not be coming home with me. 
     Due to circumstances of time and health and distance, I was the only person able to be present from our large family of brothers and sisters, and I would represent them all and give the eulogy. We had talked ahead of time about the flag, and our decision was that it should be donated to the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery to use as they saw fit, in honor of the veterans interred there.
     Within a few days, I received a formal written thank-you for the flag, telling me it was received with gratitude and would be flown among the others on the day of every burial and every military and patriotic holiday. To me, that seemed appropriate, for this cemetery is indeed a place of flags. 
    "It will be even more so on Memorial Day," I was later told by phone, by an information volunteer who underscored the contents of the thank-you letter. 
     "Every year on that holiday, a crowd of scouts and families arrives," she said. "These volunteers will place a flag on every grave for the Memorial Day military ceremony. The effort and result are beautiful to see."
     She told me of a cemetery pathway I hadn't seen. It is lined with monuments and memorials that were donated and set in place by various organizations, in honor of veterans and commemoration of historic military events. Public visits occur quite regularly, she added, not only for interments or to visit graves, but also patriotic and educational visits.  
       IN THE AUTUMN after my brother's burial, a cemetery volunteer informed me that my brother's simple marble monument had been installed. 
       It's my intention, one lovely summer day when circumstances and the weather will allow, to go there with my camera and photograph the marker for my siblings. 
      And I will linger for awhile in that place where veterans can rest in peace forever, with spacious skies above and green fields all around.

(For visitation, the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery is open dawn to dusk. It is located no more than 45 miles south of Cleveland, Ohio in Medina County, and the Public Information Center at its entry is staffed with volunteers Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and closed on federal holidays except Memorial Day)

PHOTO COURTESY of Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery. For Memorial Day each year, scouts and their families "plant" a flag on every grave.