Visitors paused near the entrance of Calvary Cemetery on Memorial Day for complimentary American flags to plant on the graves of their loved ones — those who died in service to the country and veterans who have since passed away.
Others filled buckets and watering cans at a spigot near the entrance with cleaning supplies to scrub headstones clean on Memorial Day, which fell on May 31 this year.
The cemetery, located at 1600 Newburg Road, was lively on the cool May morning, with so many visitors that cars were lined up to enter and exit in the 11 o’clock hour.
A hillside grave of Sgt. Harry A. Krebs, who died on Sept. 25, 1943, during World War II, was flanked by a trio of American flags.
The 27-year-old’s headstone says he was an aerial gunner in the United States Army Air Forces “who gave his life in the performance of his duty.”
His flags were among the many that decorated the stone and grass landscape in red, white and blue, their colors rippling in the morning breeze.
A few miles away, another stone was recently made more visible in honor of young men who also died serving in World War II. They were sons of St. Therese Church on Schiller Avenue.
A stone marker that was placed nearly 75 years ago, on Dec. 8, 1946, was recently uncovered and rededicated after vegetation had overgrown the area around it. The GermanParistown Neighborhood Association, with the help of Luv It Landscaping, led the effort to renew the garden, showcasing the stone marker and an aged dogwood tree.
The marker explains, “This dogwood tree commemorates our sons who gave their lives in World War II. Mollie Pitcher Chapter. American War Mothers. Dedicated Dec. 8, 1946.”
The memorial was rededicated during a ceremony on May 8.
Father Philip Erickson, pastor of St. Therese, said during the rededication ceremony that, in legend, the dogwood was once as sturdy as the oak and was used to make the cross, destined thereafter to grow small and narrow with crooked branches with cross-shaped flowers and a crown at their center. They would no longer be “instruments of death,” he said, but instead, the trees would be blessed as symbols of eternal life.
“Thus, it isn’t hard to see the much larger message these mothers entrusted to future generations,” he said. “It holds before us no glorification of war — but the stone-cold realization that sometimes self-sacrifice is a necessity, a last resort. It invites us not to remember war as if it were some fact in a history book, but to recall their sons who were there and died for us and our freedom. They planted, not simply a tree, but a symbol of hope and peace and eternal life.”
He added, “What those mothers entrusted to us in inviting us to remember and to tend was a vision of life and peace, recalling both the price of it and entrusting its care and growth to us.”
He concluded by quoting Pope Paul VI, who said, “If you want peace, work for justice.”