Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
Fort Gibson National Cemetery Honors 16 Veterans
On March 6, Fort Gibson National Cemetery held a “Moment of Remembrance” memorial service for 16 Veterans who were recently interred but no family were present to attend a service for each Veteran.
Among the Veterans honored were seven World War II Veterans, two Korean War Veterans and five Vietnam Veterans.
Dozens of people, including cemetery employees, attended the service which was held with full military honors.
“For some reason or another, the families had chosen not to do a service,” said Bill Rhoades, cemetery director. “For every Veteran that we have come in, we play taps at the shelter before we bury them. But this gives us another opportunity to pay them the respect that they deserve.”
Forrest Kirk, a chaplain at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center, officiated the service, the Haskell and Muskogee American Legions provided the rifle salute, while the Oklahoma National Guard folded and presented the burial flag to Rhoades, who accepted the flag on behalf of the cemetery.
The flag will be displayed during the Avenue of Flags, which are flown inside the entrance of the cemetery on special days of significance such as Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Veterans Day.
Kirk said he was happy that so many people chose to attend the service.
“All the seats were full,” said Kirk, a Navy Veteran. “I think it was quite a show of support for people who have stepped up to the plate and done their best for us. That to me was more exciting than everything else. That shows that some still care.”
Navy Veteran Bill Lockard and his wife Deanna were among the crowd who attended the service. The couple drove around 90 minutes from their home in Oologah to honor Veterans they did not personally know or had ever met.
“These guys are like family,” said Bill Lockard. “They didn’t have family to show up for their funeral, but we’re here and they won’t be forgotten.”
Deanna Lockard said she was honored to be at the cemetery for the service.
“We’re all family,” said Deanna Lockard. “They (served) so that we could be free. It was a blessing to come down here and be part of their family and funeral.”
Army Veteran Zolla Brooks, who lives in Muskogee, also attended the service and said she wanted to honor the Veterans.
“They didn’t have any family and everyone should have someone,” said Brooks, who is a Desert Storm Veteran. “We’re all brothers and sisters no matter what. We’re all the same. I commend them for their service.”
The cemetery will begin having a “Moment of Remembrance” memorial service on a monthly basis. For more information, please contact the cemetery at (918) 478-2334.