By Colleen Rice, Class of 2008, Executive Director
At 1600 hours (4pm) on July 13, Leadership Medina County visited the Western Reserve National Cemetery. Our MISSION OBJECTIVE was to learn all we could about the 273 acres set aside for a veteran’s cemetery in Medina County. Up to 24 times a day rifle volleys and taps play across the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery. Folded flags are presented to loved ones who accept the flags with a thousand yard stare. Currently, there are more than one million veterans living in the State of Ohio and approximately 540,000 residing in the cemetery’s service area. The 273 acres was designed to provide burial space for 106,000 veterans beyond the year 2050.
When this cemetery was being planned, sites were looked at across the region. WWII Veteran, Ralph Waite of Waite & Son Funeral Homes, petitioned for a site a few miles from the Village of Seville. Competition for a site came in from multiple municipalities. Ralph’s ingenuity won out, especially when he submitted mock funeral photos from the stunning grounds. Ralph’s location was accepted and in order to connect to needed infrastructure, was annexed into Rittman.
According to the website, the cemetery’s name refers to the part of the Northwest Territory formerly known as the Connecticut Western Reserve, a tract of land in Northeast Ohio reserved by the State of Connecticut when it ceded its claims for western lands to the U.S. government in 1786.
We were greeted by Director Matthew Metschke. He said the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery is the second national cemetery built in Ohio and the 119th in the national cemetery system. Matthew is also responsible for veteran’s graves at the Woodland Cemetery Soldiers’ Lot and the Confederate Stockade Cemetery.
Matthew provided our Leadership Medina County Out and About group with the INTELL (intelligence). We SADDLE UP (get your gear and get ready to go) and STAY FROSTY (alert). Situation report? We are travelling on a VICTOR (golf cart) around the cemetery. Driving through the cemetery you see neat rows of stones with hundreds of names, symbols, and wars. The straight rows of graves must be tended to twice a year. Matthew and his team measure the stones. IT’S ALL GOOD. They reset any shifted stones. A sort of GIG LINE (Gig line is a military term that refers to the alignment of the seam of the uniform shirt, belt buckle, and uniform trouser fly-seam). The stones stand proud and straight as if in a permanent state of attention. How befitting to honor the thousands of disciplined soldiers at rest.
The symbols are called emblems of belief. There are sixty-three emblems. See the entire list at http://www.cem.va.gov/docs/emblems.pdf. As we passed countless sections, we saw names of people we knew, including alumni from Leadership Medina County. Search for gravesites at http://m.va.gov/gravelocator/. Within the cemetery are monumnets and statues. There is a quiet walkway lined with over 100 memorials from veteran organizations across the region and a cremations scatter garden. Freedom isn’t free. AFFIRMATIVE.
It was a stunning and humbling tour and before we knew it we were back at the administration building.
Matthew showed us the movie “A Sacred Trust.” It’s an introduction to the National Cemetery. He explains, wreaths, flags, mowing, flowers, and more take funding and community involvement. Boyert’s Greenhouse did the honors this year, planting a dazzling array of colorful flowers to complement the peaceful setting. The cemetery hosts community events to honor veterans and educate the public. Want to find out how you can volunteer? Contact Matthew at email@example.com.
“We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us”. —Winston Churchill