Wednesday, November 3, 2004
Medal of Honor graves get special markers
Seven national heroes lie at Spring Grove
By Cliff Radel
Enquirer staff writer
WINTON PLACE - For now, seven oval grave markers chiseled from black Vermont granite stand like solemn soldiers. Shined and polished. At attention.
Jack McAfee Jr. polishes one of the seven Medal of Honor markers that will be placed at Spring Grove Cemetery. This one is for George A. Loyd, a Civil War soldier.
The Enquirer/MICHAEL E. KEATING
Come Thursday, these seven sentinels will each take its place in Spring Grove Cemetery, standing watch over the final resting places of seven recipients of the Medal of Honor.
"There are no other oval markers in the grove," said Tom Smith, executive vice president of the cemetery where 210,000 souls have been laid to rest.
"But we wanted to do something special," he said. "It's only right that we make an exception to honor these heroes."
Consider how seldom the Medal of Honor has been presented. Since the Revolutionary War, 41 million Americans have served in the armed forces. Only 3,459 of them have received the nation's highest award for valor.
Consider as well how long some of these graves have gone unrecognized. As first reported in the Enquirer on July 24, five of the seven graves have never contained any reference to the Medal of Honor: the graves of Civil War veterans John Brown, John Henry Dorman, Manning Ferguson Force, George A. Loyd and John P. Murphy.
That will change Thursday.
Weather permitting, Jack McAfee Jr., Spring Grove's manager of burial services, said, "We'll take the markers to their correct grave sites, center them, then use a spade like a cookie cutter to outline the marker. We'll remove the sod and some dirt underneath, add some sand and then lower the stone."
The marker's highly polished face will be flush with the ground.
Visitors will be able to read the soldier's name, his rank, and the date the action took place that led to him receiving the honor. Two semicircles, etched in the granite, will read: "The United States of America" and "Congressional Medal of Honor."
The Spring Grove graves of two other Medal of Honor recipients, Philip Kennedy, a veteran of the Indian Wars of 1876-77, and Spanish-American War veteran Bruno Wende, also will receive matching markers.
The oval markers are a result of the efforts of Ray Albert and his daughter, Roxanne Albert Macioci, tree farmers and Medal of Honor historians from Amanda, Ohio.
Earlier this year, they tried for four months to persuade Spring Grove to mark the five Civil War veterans' plots.
Cemetery employees declined.
They cited Spring Grove's ban on more than one marker per grave.
When the Enquirer contacted Smith in July, he made an exception for Medal of Honor recipients. Smith also arranged for the special oval markers to be made - with Spring Grove picking up the tab.
The cemetery also is footing the bill for a brochure listing the locations of the seven Medal of Honor markers, as well as brief histories of the medal and the Spring Grove recipients. The brochure will be available by the end of this month.
John P. Murphy's oval marker will be installed just in time for a Nov. 14 tribute at the cemetery. Members of the Avon-Miami Masonic Lodge - Murphy belonged when it was known as the Avon Lodge - and 20 Civil War re-enactors will honor the heroics of an 18-year-old private. At the bloodbath known as the Battle of Antietam, Md., Murphy suffered a musket wound to his left leg as he rushed into the enemy line and captured a Confederate battle flag. For this brave act, he received the Medal of Honor.
"He was the only Mason from Hamilton County to receive the Medal of Honor," said Frank Saresky, one of two lodge members organizing the Nov. 14 event.
He also had never been honored properly by the Masonic order as being a Civil War hero, said the tribute's other organizer, Jerry Stemmer.
"He should have been honored way back when," Stemmer said. "But we're doing it now because it's never too late to pay tribute to someone who risked everything to keep us free."
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