Horton cemetery honors vets, founder

Published 10:18 pm Tuesday, November 11, 2008

If Albert G. Horton Jr. had been alive, he would have been on hand for Tuesday’s Veterans Day ceremony at the cemetery that now bears his name.

In fact, according to his son, the idea of getting a cemetery for veterans in Suffolk had become so important to Horton that he probably would have been there every day, once it was built.

In a way, he still is, as he and his wife were the first to be buried at the facility when it opened on Milners Road four years ago.

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Albert Horton III said his father had worked tirelessly for seven years to get the state to honor the sacrifices of its veterans by building a cemetery dedicated to them and their families. He died in 2002 knowing the land had been bought and set aside for the cemetery, though he had died by the time ground was broken for the facility.

Tuesday’s ceremony drew a small crowd of veterans and well-wishers who arrived bundled up against the blustery November wind. They participated in a brief program and then filtered off in small groups headed home, or back to work, or — in a few cases — to tour the facility where the remains of 2,027 veterans and their family members are interred.

“Today, we commemorate the veterans who make America great,” said Delegate Chris Jones, who was the keynote speaker on Tuesday. “The reason we are ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ is because of the men and women who served our country.”

Jones called on Americans to let go of the divisiveness that characterized the recent election season. “We have unlimited potential when we work together,” he said.

The cemetery itself is, in fact, an example of that principle.

Albert Horton Jr., a retired Navy quartermaster, knew he wanted to be buried in a veterans’ cemetery, but all of the available gravesites at the closest one, in Hampton, were taken by 1993, leaving the families of the remaining Virginia veterans with the prospect of a long drive to Northern Virginia to visit their loved ones’ remains.

He began a grassroots campaign with other veterans to get the government to open a veterans’ cemetery in Hampton Roads, and he continued to fight for it at every level of government.

“He was always writing letters to politicians,” Horton’s son said Tuesday.

“He was very tenacious,” Jones recalled.

Tuesday’s event, though small and somewhat low-key, was just the sort of thing Horton felt the nation owed its veterans.

“It’s very touching, because I know Dad would have loved this,” Al Horton III said.