“A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces–but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”
- President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
That’s the hope – that America honors the service of all of its veterans who lie in unmarked graves by marking those graves.This country has long honored our veterans by marking their unmarked graves. But this is the sad reality today: because of a recent and uncalled-for change in regulations by the Veterans Administration, veterans’ graves no longer are being marked.
William Peter Strickland (1809-1884) served as chaplain of the 48th New York Infantry for two years during the Civil War. Strickland, like many Northern Evangelicals, believed that serving the Union was “the most sacred duty of every liberty-loving American citizen.” He is interred in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery in an unmarked grave.
An application was made to the Veterans Administration for a headstone for him. That application was rejected because the applicant, the cemetery where he is buried, was not next-of-kin. Chaplain Strickland lies today, 150 years after his service to his country, in an unmarked grave. We know who he was. We know that he served his country. Shouldn’t his grave be marked? Shouldn’t his service to his country be honored? We think so!
The Problem: A year ago, the VA, in effect, shut down its program, which has been in existence for more than a century, to mark the graves of veterans whose graves were unmarked. It ended that program by redefining “applicant” for a marker so narrowly that only direct descendants, rather than historians, cemeteries, museums, veterans associations, and concerned researchers, may apply for a marker. This is wrong.
The Solution: Speak out now. Protest! Sign our petition. And spread the word. Call your members of Congress and tell them to support legislation to change this. Help us “Mark Their Graves!”
The Ad Hoc Committee to Mark Their Graves:
Jeffrey I. Richman (click to email), Green-Wood Cemetery historian; trustee, North Shore Civil War Roundtable
William Finlayson, president, Civil War Round Table of New York; trustee, North Shore Civil War Roundtable
Robert MacAvoy, co-author of “Our Brothers Gone Before,” winner of the New Jersey Historical Commission’s Award of Recognition; member, New Jersey Sesquicentennial Committee
George J. Weinmann, vice president and instructor, Greenpoint Monitor Museum
Lance Ingram, president, New York State Sesquicentennial Committee; president, Friends of the New York State Military Museum.
Andrew Athanas, president, North Shore Civil War Roundtable
William Styple, author; town historian, Kearny, New Jersey; member, New Jersey Sesquicentennial Committee; member, Co. E, 15th New Jersey Infantry
Bruce L. Sirak, president, Camp Olden Civil War Round Table & Museum; member, New Jersey Sesquicentennial Committee.
He saw action during the Peninsular Campaign, the Seven Days Battles, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, where he was wounded. Transferred to the Invalid Corps in 1863, he became lieutenant colonel of the 10th Veteran Reserve Corps.
In all, he served his country for four and one-half years in uniform. His brevet cited him for “gallant and meritorious services.” His unmarked grave is in Rosedale Cemetery, Orange, New Jersey. Shouldn’t it be marked?
“Every statue and marker in America has a biography.”
- Leslie George Katz
Louis Kentana (1842-1927) served in the Civil War, from 1861 until 1865, as a private in the 65th and 67th New York Infantries. During his service, he was hospitalized for six months with “confirmed excitability and palpitation of the heart.”
According to his 1880 application for an invalid pension, he was wounded by a shell about four inches above the knee at the Battle of Malvern Hill, Virginia, on July 1, 1862, and was treated by the regimental surgeon. In addition, he stated that he suffered a gunshot wound in the right thumb at the Battle of The Wilderness, Virginia, in May 1864, and was confined to a hospital in Washington, D.C., for about two months. Years later, he was awarded an invalid pension. He lies in an unmarked grave. Louis Kentana served his country for four years and was wounded in battle twice. Shouldn’t he get a gravestone from the VA, whether or not he has lineal descendants?Major James H. Remington of the 7th Rhode Island Infantry and Corporal Philip Tavernier of the 4th New York Infantry were wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Alvah Schofield was a Navy man. Sergeant David Bell served with the 2nd U.S. Artillery. First Lieutenant James Entwhistle served with the 6th New York Infantry from 1861 to 1863. Private Wales Jennings served for a year with the 15th Connecticut Infantry.
Applications, made in June, 2012, on their behalf to mark their unmarked graves all were rejected by the Veterans Administration because the applicant was not a lineal descendant. They served their country. Shouldn’t their graves be marked? We think so.