My Turn, Ronnie Smith: Vital national cemetery for local families – Salisbury Post

By Ronnie Smith

As an Air Force and Vietnam veteran, a member of our local veteran organizations including the VFW, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans Association, and military officers of America, and on behalf of many Rowan County veterans, I think we would be remiss. if we have not responded to a letter to the editor published on February 5 (“Words appreciating service empty, phony”) regarding our Salisbury National Cemetery.

I have had the honor and privilege of working with our Salisbury National Cemetery and cemetery staff for many years. I have always found the staff to be very courteous, professional and above all respectful in carrying out their duties and in working with the families of our Veterans.

With all due respect to those of us who may be unfamiliar with cemetery policies and procedures, it may be important to know that our Salisbury National Cemetery is currently the only National Cemetery in North Carolina in to accept veterans’ burials.

On any given day of the week, our cemetery staff may have to plan up to six or more funerals and interments at the cemetery. In fact, many veteran families from across the Southeast have chosen our National Cemetery as the final resting place for their loved ones.

With so many hours in the day, yes there is a strict schedule for services, especially under the shelter. Often, beginning early in the morning and continuing late into the day, a funeral service is held nearly every hour on a “first-scheduled, first-served” basis as other families and visitors arrive to wait their turn for their next scheduled service. Please understand that there is certainly no disrespect if one family can be inconvenienced so that another family can commemorate their veteran or spouse on such a set schedule.

It may also be important to know that our cemetery in Salisbury is nationally recognized as one of the largest and best in the Southeastern United States. Although our Salisbury National Cemetery is quickly filling up, thanks to a group of local Rowan County veterans and a coordinated community effort, over 30 additional acres adjacent to the cemetery are being added. This will enable our Salisbury National Cemetery to continue to function as an ‘active’ cemetery for thousands of veterans and their families for many years to come. Otherwise, our Salisbury National Cemetery may be closed to future burials, and interments would take place at Fort Jackson National Cemetery in Columbia, SC, or other out-of-state locations. This may not be a viable option for many local veteran families.

As veterans and volunteers, we thank and salute the staff of our Salisbury National Cemetery for the exceptional service they provide to our many veterans and their families.

And thank you also to the many Scouts and Citizens who volunteer their time to help place American flags and holiday wreaths at every grave on Memorial Day and Christmas each year. It is a tribute that every family will never forget.

We should all be immensely proud of our National Cemetery in Salisbury. And, yes, we thank all of our veterans for their service to our country.

Ronnie Smith lives in Salisbury.

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