Remembering and honoring veterans

Published 8:10 pm Saturday, November 12, 2016

By Myrtle Virginia Thompson

November 11 was a day without clouds, a bright blue sky looking down on us.

The driveway on both sides of the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery was lined with beautiful, large American flags. The gentle breeze seemed to be making them dance with joy at the remembrance of a country still free enough for its people to worship, to enjoy a life much different from others in the world.

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This cemetery and many others around the country are today honoring members of an older generation who now lie in graves sacred to their memory, their names inscribed in stone to remind us they volunteered to give everything for us to live free of fear and need.

If an aged flag could speak, it would tell of a time when our flag was almost tattered. That thought of being taken over was put down by young men and women who, through the horrors of war, saw beyond their personal futures and joined to fight for our country.

In this cemetery, we can feel the spirit of about eight thousand of them, while many thousands lie elsewhere, even in foreign lands, never able to return to the country for which they fought and gave their all.

Our flag still flies because of their dedication. It seems an irony that we are free to dishonor both it and those brave people by burning its emblem.

A beautiful blue sky overhead, red, white and blue adorning the grounds below, the reminder this is a sacred place.

Friday was our moment to reflect on why our nation sets apart a day different from all others, a day marked by a time in the past when history could have been changed forever, a day for honor and remembrance.

We saw men and women walking around, looking at the inscriptions. Families came and went, looking, remembering, bringing attention to why displaying our flag tells the world who we are, why this flag is important.

For my daughter and me, it was a time when the sense of history reverberated, as we recalled returning to America from other countries where we had lived and served. America was always home. Seeing that beloved flag flying as we arrived in port is an unforgettable memory.

On Friday, we were revisiting the grave of my husband and her dad. He had recently returned from India. A missionary child who had just graduated from high school, he felt the need to serve his country.

He liked to tell how, with his graduation gown over his arm, he went to the headquarters and volunteered for the Navy, in which he served three years until the war was over.

Young children wearing T-shirts honoring the flag were walking around this sacred ground, being reminded of our nation’s history by their grandparents.

The grave markers are identical, except for the name, rank and a brief message. It is a mark of the unity that brought about the United States of America, a reminder that ours is one nation, in the past known as “One nation under God.”

Could we not wish that those who stomped on and burned that flag just a few days ago might understand why we consider it a sacred part of our lives?

It was Mr. A.G. Horton’s legacy that made this memorial cemetery possible. I thank his family for honoring his wishes. Because of it, these beloved men and women have a place in the homeland where we can honor them and thank God for their service, even though it is in death.

Here, they and their sacrifice are not forgotten.

Myrtle Virginia Thompson is a Suffolk resident and former missionary. Email her at