Veterans Home to replace about 200 worn headstones

Published: May 13, 2008 | 7027th good news item since 2003

The Vermont Veterans Home is planning to replace the worn headstones in its cemetery, some of which are more than 115 years old, with new marble grave markers.

Lewis Bowman, veterans’ liaison at the home, said some of the headstones erected for Civil War veterans date back to 1891. Among the earliest headstones are those for Curtis Hicks, a soldier with the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment, and Patrick Brannon, a member of the 1st Vermont Cavalry.

The cemetery is also the final resting place for soldiers who fought in World War I and World War II. As recently as last week, Thomas Rosetti, a veteran of the Vietnam War was buried on the grounds.

Many of the headstones, some of which are flat and flush with the ground, have become worn and difficult to read.

With the support of state Rep. Joseph Krawczyk Jr., R-Bennington, Bowman said he was able to contact Veterans Affairs about a program that will allow the home to replace about 200 headstones.

The new headstones will be marble and uniformly vertical, according to Bowman. While there will be no charge for the replacement of the headstones, Bowman said the federal government requires proof of the destruction of the old grave markers.

Veterans home administrator Colleen Rundell said the government doesn’t want soldiers’ headstones to be sold online or otherwise trivialized.

Krawczyk said on Saturday that he and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who was in Bennington on Friday, discussed the possibility of preserving the headstones as historic objects.

The Wreaths Across America project led to Krawczyk’s involvement in the headstone replacement, he said. The wreaths were first supplied by the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, to Arlington National Cemetery. In 2006, they expanded their donations to military cemeteries across the country.

For two years, Wreaths Across America has made donations to the Vermont Veterans Home cemetery. As people decorated the graves, they noticed the worn appearance of the stones and brought their concerns to Krawczyk, a veteran and chairman of Gov. James Douglas’ Veterans Advisory Council.

“I think this is something that has taken on new significance to Americans,” Krawczyk said. “I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Arlington National Cemetery, but for me it was breathtaking to be on those grounds. It really made me think about the service these men and women have provided to this country, selfless service. It makes you think about our history and how many of them gave their lives protecting the freedoms we have.”

Krawczyk said his father served as the grand marshal of the Veterans Day parade in the early 1950s that ended at the Vermont Veterans Home cemetery. He said he wanted to see the “significance and reverence” the cemetery held for the town at the time restored.

According to Bowman, the headstones that will be restored, primarily from soldiers who served in the Civil War and World Wars I and II, along with some from veterans of wars in Korea and Vietnam, will be ready for an unveiling on Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

Family members of the veterans interred in the cemetery will be invited to the ceremony.

That leaves a lot of work for Bowman and Dick Francis, who is in charge of grounds maintenance at the home. Because of the weight of the headstones, there are only so many that can be delivered and installed at a time.

“We’ll complete it on time. We want to be ready for Veterans Day,” Bowman said.

Published in Life
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