Citizens rally to honor nation’s veterans
From a distance, the more than 26,000 white headstones at Leavenworth National Cemetery line the rolling hills like dominoes.
Toward one edge of the cemetery, earthmovers level ground to help accommodate the 800 new graves added each year. Across the hillside, a worker pulls a hose from stone to stone, power washing each marker.
Established in 1886, the cemetery is well-tended and marked by tall shade trees, memorials and a chapel.
And later this month, another memorial to veterans a 40-foot-tall carillon will be added.
Frances Thorne, a veteran of World War II, said the idea for the monument came about less than a year ago after retired Army chaplain Billy Whiteside performed funeral services for a veteran and noted that the only other person who attended was the funeral director.
"So little had been done to recognize this guy," Thorne said. "So he (Whiteside) started talking to people about putting up a carillon memorial."
He organized a group of people, who first met on Feb. 1. Now, less than a year later, the carillon is close to becoming a reality and the reality ultimately will result in something more to honor veterans.
Charles Hage-meister, a retired lieutenant colonel and a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, said the $35,000 cost of the tower and three bells is being paid by the American Veterans organization.
"One of their goals is to put a carillon in each national cemetery," Hagemeister said.
Of the 120 national cemeteries in the United States, 29 have a carillon.
"As part of that goal, they're willing to do all they can to help make that happen," Hagemeister said.
The cement base for the carillon was poured last week and the steel tower, manufactured by Schulmerich Bells, Sellersville, Penn., will arrive later this month.
Organizers plan a balloon lift-off for 11 a.m. on Veterans Day 2000, and it is hoped that by Memorial Day, 2001, the bells will be operating, Thorne said.
"The bells will ring every hour from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., there will be music capacity, and the sound of the bells are expected to carry four miles," he said.
Mary Jackson, retired lieutenant colonel, said she hopes the sound of the bells will serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made by veterans of all wars.
"Think about what we asked all those young people to do," Jackson said. "For a lot of them, that was before they were old enough to take a drink of alcohol, or at that time, to vote."