Cedar Hill ceremony pays tribute

Published 7:52 pm Monday, May 28, 2018

The Memorial Day ceremony at Cedar Hill Cemetery saw one of its best turnouts in years, as more than 75 people came to pay respects to the men and women who have died in service to the United States of America.

The event is organized each year by the Norman R. Mathews Post 57 of the American Legion. It featured participation from many local veterans, Boy Scout Troop 1 and representatives of local organizations.

Post Commander Denis Confer recited the history of Memorial Day, mentioning the decoration of the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers after the Civil War and then the change that took place after World War I.

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“After World War I, they expanded to honor those who died in all American wars,” he said.

U.S. Navy Capt. Gavin Duff was the guest speaker for the Norman R. Mathews Post 57 American Legion ceremony on Monday.

The historic Cedar Hill Cemetery contains monuments to several of the nation’s wars, including both world wars, which feature the names of Suffolk natives who fought in them. Among its thousands of gravesites are hundreds that were adorned with the American flag in preparation for the holiday, signifying their service as a veteran.

U.S. Navy Capt. Gavin Duff, the guest speaker for the event, honored one of those in his speech.

‘I honor a local hero lost too soon,” he said. “Suffolk native Army 1st Lt. John Kendrick Hutton, who died in action Aug. 11, 1967, at the age of 24. Lieutenant Hutton lies in the hallowed grounds of this cemetery behind me.”

Hutton was one of several Vietnam veterans mentioned by Duff especially as he took time to honor those who died in one of America’s most unpopular wars.

“We must ensure these individuals are never forgotten and that their actions stay alive in our memories and in our hearts,” Duff said. “This is important for honoring the heroes of today and the veterans of years gone by who paved the way for them.”

Duff also mentioned Pfc. James Anderson Jr., who was the first black U.S. Marine recipient of the Medal of Honor. He received the award posthumously after intentionally using his body to shelter his comrades from the blast of a grenade.

Robert Grady and Johnny Beale lower the American flag to half-mast during the Cedar Hill ceremony.

Duff also honored Lt. Col. Annie Ruth Graham, who served in the Army in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. She was 52 years old when she died after being evacuated to Japan.

Duff also talked about recent news of fatalities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa and Syria. He mentioned last August’s discovery of the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis, which was torpedoed on July 30, 1945, with only 316 ultimate survivors out of its 1,195-member crew.

“I know that each of you understands that this is more than a passing news headline involving military personnel,” Duff said. “Their loss of life is tragic. Today, it is our privilege to honor their lives.”