Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hallowed Ground Again

I visited the Navajo Veterans Cemetery last week when I was in Window Rock and found a group of volunteers clearing brush. Their efforts were marked by the smoke rising from a constantly fed pile of burning brush. About three quarters of the cemetery has been cleared. The graves and headstones are now far more prominent. So there is some landscape control in this place, a never ending battle that is waged periodically to keep the cemetery clear.

Walking among the newly liberated graves I see that many are enclosed, more than I remembered. The enclosures are made from all sorts of materials. One enclosure is a weathered picket fence about three feet high, its weathered wood hiding the marker. Other graves are enclosed with different materials: concrete block, smooth rounded river rock, rough stones. Here a grave is decorated with broken glass of many colors. Another sports shiny sprinkles. The earth is reddish tan, sandy and mixed with small stones. The flags wave in the light wind. There are fewer today than in past visits. Virtually all are whole and bright. Veterans Day is three weeks away. More flags will appear then.

Standing here on a sunny day, I see a memorial to hard life in a difficult place. Military service often added hardship. Many veterans buried here died before age 50. Their headstones tell little about them beyond branch and theaters of service, medals and dates. No hint of what led so many to early graves.


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