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They gave the ultimate sacrifice: Veterans remembered at Wood National Cemetery

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- On Memorial Day, Monday, May 26th at Wood National Cemetery -- was a powerful tribute from veterans still with us -- in honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Wood National Cemetery on West National Avenue played host to the annual Milwaukee Veterans Affairs Memorial Day ceremony.

Memorial Day is a day meant for remembering the servicemen and servicewomen who have died while serving the country.

It is a day meant for reverence, reflection, and a heartfelt "thank you" to our veterans.

It is a federal holiday that inspires those who haven't served -- and conjures vivid memories for those who have.

"The buddies that I lost in Vietnam, that were killed next to me -- I`ll always think about them every year, all the time," Vietnam veteran Fred Masarik said.

Masarik was in awe at the respect he was shown during the ceremony at Wood National Cemetery on Monday. 

He knows first-hand -- it wasn't always like this.

"It was different times. The country was very divided, and when we came through San Francisco, they threw stuff at our jet in `67. We just sort of shook our heads," Marasik said.

In speaking with veterans on this Memorial Day who have sacrificed to serve our country -- one common call was for us to appreciate our freedom.

"You don`t know what we have here. When I went to the embassy and saw our flag every day, that just filled me with so much pride," Navy veteran Marcia Cunningham said.

Of course, those freedoms have come at a tremendous cost. A cost so great, some veterans say they need ceremonies like Monday's for a reminder.

"It's real important for me to just visualize this and go through it. Just keep it in my mind. Once you're a vet -- you're a vet," Vietnam veteran Earl Milan said.

"People should never, ever forget what they gave and sacrificed for this country. The ultimate sacrifice," Marasik said.

The least we can all do is reflect on that sacrifice.


Wood National Cemetery is actually CLOSED to new interments.

The only interments that are being accepted are subsequent interments for veterans or eligible family members in an existing gravesite.

Periodically however, burial space may become available due to a canceled reservation or when a disinterment has been completed.

When either of these two scenarios occurs, the gravesite is made available to another eligible veteran on a first-come, first-served basis.

The cemetery is co-located with the VA Medical Center and the VA Regional Office in Milwaukee.

It is the only cemetery in the National Cemetery Administration that is co-located with both a Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a Veterans Affairs Regional Office.

The cemetery is located on the grounds of a former Soldiers Home that today is called the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, Milwaukee, Wis.

From 1867 until 1871, the home buried its soldiers in private cemeteries in the Milwaukee area.

In 1871, a cemetery opened on the grounds.

Originally known only as Soldiers Home Cemetery, it wasn’t until 1937 the name was changed to honor Gen. George Wood, a longtime member of the Soldiers’ Home’s Board of Managers.

It became a national cemetery in 1973.

The cemetery is part of the Northwestern Branch-National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers National Historic Landmark district, designated on June 6, 2011.

The 60-foot-tall granite Civil War Soldiers and Sailors monument was erected in 1903 when the cemetery was part of the Northwest Branch Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

The monument was sponsored by the Soldiers and Sailors Association and was sculpted by Joseph Shaver Granite and Marble Co. of Milwaukee.

A memorial pathway is lined with a variety of memorials that honor America’s veterans.

As of 2003, there were seven memorials along there —most commemorating soldiers of 20th-century wars.

Notable persons buried at Wood National Cemetery include:

  • Ordinary Seaman James K. Duncan (Civil War), U. S. Navy, USS Fort Hindman. Harrisonburg, La., April 16, 1864 (Section 19, Grave 41).
  • Private Milton Matthews (Civil War), U.S. Army, Company C, 61st Pennsylvania Infantry. Petersburg, Va., April 2, 1865 (Section 11, Grave 61).
  • Corporal Winthrop D. Putnam (Civil War), U.S. Army, Company A, 77th, Illinois Infantry. Vicksburg, Miss., May 22, 1863 (Section 16, Grave 109).
  • Private Lewis A. Rounds (Civil War), U.S. Army, Company D, 8th Ohio Infantry. Spotsylvania, Va., May 12, 1864 (Section 20, Grave 256).
  • Boatswain’s Mate Michael McCormick (Civil War), U.S. Navy, USS Signal. Red River, May 19, 1865 (Section MA, Grave 10A).

CLICK HERE to view’s online Memorial Day photo gallery of veterans — and submit your pictures!

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