Recently, Johan and I visited the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. We were traveling and he felt it was important to stop there while we were in St. Louis. I had never been there, although I have read through IDPFs (death files) for several group burials from WWII which are there.
We did not go to find anyone specific, though Johan did look up a couple of Airborne men he knew were there. After looking them up I said I wanted to find an area that had group burials from WWII. Wouldn’t you know, because the universe takes care of me, that’s the first place we stopped. And across the road from the section we started in were more group burials, not only from WWII but Korea and Vietnam. There are so many stories there. I took a lot of photos of graves and will do some research on those buried in them.
If you have followed me for any length of time you know for the last 3 1/2 years I have traveled extensively in Europe. I visit a lot of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) WWI and WWII cemeteries. I visit British and German cemeteries. Interestingly and still on my list is to visit a Dutch war cemetery. Somehow after living in the Netherlands part of the year, that is one thing I have not seen.
My cousin James Privoznik is buried in the ABMC Luxembourg cemetery. The ABMC cemeteries have a much different atmosphere and energy than the National Veterans Cemeteries in the U.S. ABMC is strictly WWI or WWII. The graves are all the same – white marble crosses and some white marble Star of Davids. The energy of an ABMC cemetery focuses on, from my experiences, the stories of those men who died there in one war. A lot of history is contained in one cemetery.
National Veterans Cemeteries have a completely different energy and atmosphere. These cemeteries do not focus on one war but most wars. Jefferson Barracks even has a Revolutionary War section. At first this surprised me but after I stopped for a moment and through about my history and genealogy training I remembered that while the men and women who fought in the Revolutionary War were on the east coast, many received land patents and eventually moved west. So it is no surprise there are veterans buried in the Midwest.
Other things that are completely different, is in the Veteran Cemeteries many spouses and sometimes children are buried with the veteran. You do not see this in ABMC cemeteries for obvious reasons. There are monuments for all wars throughout the cemetery. Animals watch over our war dead, something I only once experienced in an ABMC cemetery and that was a snail. At Jefferson Barracks, the deer roam free and we found one sitting behind the Gold Star Memorial for WWI. The deer watched us slowly and quietly approach and once we acknowledged each other and the power we each held, the deer got up and left. Not long after, three more deer ran across the road out of a small wooded area near more graves, through the Gold Star Memorial area and into the woods behind it. It was a beautiful site.
While there is so much to say about Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery and so many stories there, I leave you with a couple more photos that impacted me. While I knew there were air crew group burials at the cemetery, I did not know there were Japanese POW group burials there. Inside the chapel, I saw a plaque honoring the men who died. Then Johan and I went back to a section we had previously been in, to find the grave. You can click the plaque and group burial photos to see larger images.
I would encourage you to visit one of our nation’s National Veterans Cemeteries on your travels even if you do not have a family member buried there. It is a humbling, moving experience to walk among the graves that roll over beautiful manicured green hills or plains, that tell an abundance of stories. What can we learn by spending time in these sacred spaces? Whose stories will we be inspired to research and tell? How will those stories and those lives connect with our own?
Have you had an experience at a National Veterans Cemetery you would like to share? Please feel free to tell your story in the comments.
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