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Washington Voices

Cemetery pays military tribute to veterans

Thu., March 8, 2012

Cemetery Director Richard Cesler, far right, reads the names of veterans from Washington who did not receive funeral honors. (Colin Mulvany)
Cemetery Director Richard Cesler, far right, reads the names of veterans from Washington who did not receive funeral honors. (Colin Mulvany)

Their families may not be there, but members of the military who have passed away still receive their full honors.

On the last Monday of the month, the staff and volunteers of the Eastern Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake present formal honors to veterans who for one reason or another didn’t receive the honors at their own funerals.

“Every veteran is due our respect,” said Richard Cesler, the cemetery director. He said Congress passed a law in 2000 which grants statutory benefits to each veteran who has served. They submit names to each branch of the military to check if each veteran has received honors. If they have not, the names are read during this monthly ceremony.

It’s a solemn event. At the February ceremony, the Honor Guard from Fairchild Air Force Base marched in with a flag and ceremonially unfolded it. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Honor Guard stood at attention at the back of the room presenting flags. An invocation was read, and Cesler said a few words regarding the purpose of the ceremony.

The names are read, one by one, by members of the Ladies and Gentlemen of the State Veterans Cemetery.

Joyce Durrant, a volunteer with the group, said they participate in this ceremony as part of their duties, which include offering families their condolences.

At last month’s ceremony, Cesler said 74 names were read. Members read about 25 names before ringing a bell, then continuing down their list.

A bugler stood on a small slope outside the small chapel and played taps.

The Army National Guard Honor Guard presented a rifle salute, which broke through the silence of the cemetery.

The Air Force Honor Guard carefully refolded the American flag, smoothed out wrinkles in the fabric and wrapped it over itself into a tight triangle.

A “lady of the cemetery” served as a symbolic member of the family and accepted the flag on its behalf. An honor guardsman presented her with a final salute before marching out of the chapel.

It’s not a long ceremony, about 15 or 20 minutes, but the respect the veterans receive is very real.

“It’s a closure,” Cesler said.



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