Final salute

A ceremony at Culpeper National Cemetery will honor unaccompanied veterans

By Debbie Eisele

Special to the Rappahannock News

The final salute ceremony at Culpeper National Cemetery will honor veterans who did not have family or loved ones attend their services. Courtesy of Culpeper National Cemetery

Update: Culpeper National Cemetery has rescheduled the Final Salute Ceremony to Friday, October 19, 2018, at 2 p.m.

The Culpeper National Cemetery provides a beautiful serene setting, benches, parking, rolling hills, and a place for service men and women to be interred, remembered and honored. Committal Services for loved ones and military honors are quite common on these grounds. But each year there are numerous individuals laid to rest in this quiet setting without anyone in attendance. This scenario is about to change.

The cemetery will conduct a special ceremony on Sept. 14 at 2 p.m. to honor unaccompanied veterans. Unaccompanied veterans are individuals who have passed away (KIA or died) who have been buried but do not have family or loved ones to attend a service honoring their life, their military service or the sacrifices they made for their country. This standalone ceremony will incorporate volunteers, area residents, staff from Hero’s Bridge, special guests and more.

Matthew Priest, director with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration for the Culpeper National Cemetery Complex, and volunteer Barbara Barclay have organized this event, and collaborated with funeral homes, veteran service organizations, law enforcement and other veterans for this ceremony.

The event will be conducted by veterans, cemetery personnel, volunteers, Hero’s Bridge (a nonprofit serving veterans age 65 and older) and residents within the local region who wish to stand by and honor these veterans.

The official name of the event is Culpeper National Cemetery Final Salute Ceremony, and this inaugural event will honor approximately 20 veterans laid to rest in the cemetery. It will be held in the annex section of the Culpeper National Cemetery, 501 East Chandler St., Culpeper. Parking, seating and restrooms are available at the site.

The ceremony will include the presentation of colors by VFW Post 2524, national anthem (Ella Strickland), opening prayer (Reverend Brown, SGM U.S. Army retired), a guest speaker (Paul Needham (LTC USAF, retired), reading of the unaccompanied veteran names (Hero’s Bridge), military honors by VFW Post 2524, and a benediction (Rev. Brown).

Priest said, “The importance of our Final Salute ceremony is to promise that no Veteran dies. We cannot change the inevitability of breath leaving our body for the last time, however we can ensure the legacy of our Veterans lives forever. That is our mission at the National Cemetery Administration and our purpose for this ceremony.”

Culpeper National Cemetery and Hero’s Bridge welcome participation from regional residents. Any local citizen, veteran or vet-centric individual interested in attending should contact Culpeper National Cemetery. For more information please visit the Facebook event page Hero’s Bridge has created, or call the cemetery at 540-825-0027.

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