GRAFTON, W. Va. – Hundreds of veterans and citizens gathered at the West Virginia National Cemetery on Sunday to honor fallen soldiers.
Ron Hestdalen, Active Director of the West Virginia National Cemetery said the event is put on with cooperation from residents wishing to pay their respects.
“This ceremony is put together by the local community, veterans groups and organizations that have been doing it for years and years,” he said. “We at the National Cemetery in West Virginia are very, very fortunate that we have wonderful community members and support organizations that put for their effort and time to put this together, this wonderful ceremony.”
The ceremony was part of Grafton’s 147th Annual Memorial Day Program, which began Friday and continues through Memorial Day. It included patriotic music from the Taylor County Middle School Band and All-County Chorus, a salute by the Taylor County Honor Guard, speeches from veterans and a presentation of wreaths from various veteran organizations.
The reason for the ceremony is to help keep the reason for the holiday in the minds of those in attendance.
“Memorial Day is a time to reflect on those who gave their lives for our country so we could have the freedoms we have today,” Hestdalen said.
West Virginia National Cemetery is one of 131 National Cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico honoring Memorial Day. On a personal level, Hestdalen took pride in being involved in Sunday’s ceremony.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of this and to be able to take care of the veterans the family members on a daily basis at the cemetery,” he said.
After it became apparent that the Grafton National Cemetery was running out of space, land was given for the West Virginia National Cemetery at Prunytown, just outside of Grafton, in 1984. Although construction was not completed, the 58-acre cemetery was dedicated in 1987. It has since been expanded to 89.7 acres.
“West Virginia National Cemetery is a wonderful, wonderful piece of property that we’re very fortunate to have so that we can serve the veterans in the local area and provide those dignified burial honors that they deserve,” Hestdalen said.
More information about the cemetery can be found at cem.va.gov.
Grafton’s Memorial Day Program will continue on Memorial Day with a similar ceremony at Grafton National Cemetery immediately following a parade at 10 a.m. through town.