Comrades-at-arms honored

Published 10:23 pm Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A steady rain kept them inside, but a small group of faithful veterans showed up on Wednesday to remember and honor their comrades-at-arms buried in the soggy ground at the Albert C. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery.

Flags planted on Tuesday beside each memorial stone by a group of volunteers wilted in the rain, as puddles formed along sidewalks and between graves.

Widows, children and grandchildren of departed veterans gathered in small groups inside the cemetery’s administration building, where members of VFW Post No. 9382 had gathered to pay their own respects.

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“The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States will always honor those who go forth in defense of our nation,” Post member Tom Dushatinski told a group of about a dozen post and auxiliary members and guests during the special ceremony. “They are the true guardians of freedom, justice and equality among men.”

“Today, we remember and pay tribute to these veterans,” Dushatisnski added. “To the families and friends of the ones who have lost their lives, we are truly sorry for your loss. Their sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance.”

The Suffolk VFW post took advantage of the Veterans Day holiday to dedicate a new granite bench that it had sponsored at the cemetery.

The bench is one of several that line “Veterans Row,” a sidewalk that runs alongside the cemetery’s area for cremated remains.

“There are going to be a whole lot of families that are going to thank you” for the bench, Cemeteries Director Dan R. Kemano told the group. “It was very, very gracious of you.”

With Hampton Roads being such a popular community for veterans and for retirees, and as veterans of World War II are now dying at a rate of more than 1,000 per day, Keman said the cemetery, which was built with a federal grant but is now run by the state’s department of veterans’ affairs, is seeing burials at an ever-increasing rate.

On Friday, for instance, six funerals are scheduled, and administrators plan them at 45-minute intervals when they’re at their busiest.

Still, though, the 74-acre property has plenty of room to spare, Kemano said, estimating that veterans, their spouses and their eligible dependents could be buried on the site for another 60 to 80 years.

“The Post should be gratified that we have a place like this to lay our veterans,” Commander Thomas Dodson said.