Veterans cemeteries offer resting place for those who served
Once again, there’s some crispness in the air, and I have to tell you that I love it. Autumn also brings us closer to Veterans Day, a day when we as a nation recognize the sacrifices that fine men and women have made to help keep our freedom alive.
The autumn colors are beautiful, but more beautiful are the colors of our flag – red, white and blue. The colors are flown all over our nation on a daily basis – in the classroom, at the town common, in front of many churches – but on each and every day, there are many flags flying at our national cemeteries and our state-operated Massachusetts Veteran Memorial cemeteries. These cemeteries are set aside as sacred land to be the final resting place of our dedicated family and friends in the armed services and their spouses or dependent children.
On July 17, 1862, Congress enacted legislation that authorized the president to purchase “cemetery grounds” to be used as national cemeteries “for soldiers who shall have died in the service of the country.”
I have had the honor on many occasions to travel to The National Cemetery on Cape Cod in Bourne, and I must say, there is nothing more impressive than turning onto the Avenue of Flags and seeing that the wind has taken each one and made it fly outstretched to greet the soldier or spouse we are bringing to lay to rest. I’d like to share a statement made by a friend of mine. Father Don, a Catholic priest who assists us with graveside prayers when we make the drive from Worcester, reminds us as we are assembled that “the cemetery grounds are sacred, and the flags fly every day in honor of the sacrifice made by men and women who fought for our freedom. Each and every day at The National Cemetery is Veterans Day.”
There are also two veteran cemeteries in Massachusetts that are operated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. One of them is in Agawam, outside of Springfield, and the other is in Winchendon. We are very fortunate in Massachusetts that these sacred grounds are set aside.
These cemeteries offer a great service to the men and women who served our nation. I would like to share a few of the benefits that are afforded our veterans at the cemeteries. While the National Cemetery and Massachusetts Veterans cemeteries offer similar benefits, there are a few slight differences.
- Both offer a gravesite or niche for cremated remains to the veteran and to the spouse or dependent child at no charge.
- There are no opening fees at the National Cemetery for the veteran or the spouse or eligible dependent children.
- There is no opening fee for the veteran at the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery, but there is a $150 charge for cremated remains of the spouse or dependent children and a $300 charge for interment of a casket of the spouse or dependent child. If the spouse is also a veteran, there are no charges.
- Both the National and Massachusetts Veterans cemeteries make arrangements with the Department of Veteran Affairs for the marker at the grave.
- Both the National and Massachusetts Veterans cemeteries provide grave liners for the graves, although a family may purchase a vault or grave liner from a funeral director.
I’m certain that every funeral director has worked with family members who have said their dad told them that the military would pay for his funeral. While that’s not the case in most instances, the military does offer other benefits, depending upon disability and whether a death was service-connected. Families can contact their local veterans agent to find out what they are entitled to, in addition to the offering from the veteran cemeteries.
Veterans have done this nation a great service, and it is an honor as a funeral director to serve any member of the Armed Services. We are always willing to offer guidance to a family that may have questions and can refer families to their local veterans agent.
Stephen Gemelli is the general manager and director of Mercadante Funeral Home & Chapel, 370 Plantation St., Worcester. For more information, visit mercadantefuneral.com or call (508) 754-0486.