On Saturday, Sept. 11, the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery was recognized as the first “Purple Heart VA Cemetery” in the United States by The Department of Texas’ Military Order of the Purple Heart. The ceremony included the presentation of a sign for the cemetery honoring the brave service members who have received the Purple Heart.
The 635-acre DFW National Cemetery is the third busiest national cemetery in the United States, averaging nearly two-dozen burials a day.
“VA national cemeteries provide outstanding support to Veterans and their families, a dignified burial, and a central gathering point for the Veteran’s family and community,” said Lazaro Camarillo, Texas State Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. “We owe a deep gratitude and respect to all members of the Armed Forces, especially those who have been wounded or killed in combat and honored with the Purple Heart Medal.”
Veterans, active duty, the community, and those who support the sacrifices of Veterans were welcome to attend.
“We thank VA cemetery staff, and those who work every day on behalf of our fallen Veterans, those who have ‘borne the battle,’ for ensuring you never leave any of us behind,” said Camarillo. “As a Combat Wounded Army Infantryman who has buried many friends at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, it is my honor to designate Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, the first ‘Purple Heart VA Cemetery’ in the United States.”
“We work here each day to honor our fellow brothers and sisters, our Veterans,” said Larry Williams, the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery director. “We are grateful to the Military Order of the Purple Heart for this noble distinction. This helps us support our mission, to remember our heroes so their legacy will never die.”
Charted by Congress in 1958, the Military Order of the Purple Heart is unique among all Veteran service organizations in that the membership is comprised entirely of combat veterans who were wounded in action. Although membership is restricted to combat wounded, they support all Veterans and their families with nationwide programs. There is approximately 47,000 living Purple Heart recipients in the state of Texas with the largest geographic area of living Purple Heart recipients in the nation.
VA operates 155 national cemeteries and 34 soldiers' lots and monument sites in 44 states and Puerto Rico. More than 5 million Americans, including Veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA cemeteries. Fulfilling President Lincoln’s call, “to care for him who shall have borne the battle,” VA also provides headstones, markers, or medallions for Veterans buried in State and Territorial Veterans cemeteries or interred in private cemeteries.
Gustav Wittschack, Commander of Chapter 1513 in the Military Order Of The Purple Heart, read a proclamation.
"Whereas the Department of Veterans Affairs, the VFW National Center for Veterans Affairs, the Dallas/Fort Worth National Cemetery, and the utmost gratitude for all the men and women who have sufficiently served their country, and in this community and the armed forces and employees of the VFW National Cemetery, that served in the Air Force, and whereas all men and women served their country honorably, with the understanding that they may be injured, or called to give their lives while serving in the armed forces. And the contributions and sacrifices of the men and women who rest here today served in the armed forces. And they have been vital to maintain the freedoms and way of life enjoyed by our citizens. And whereas the Purple Heart, the oldest military decoration was initially created as the badge of military directed by George Washington in 1782. And whereas, the Purple Heart, the first American Service Award, or declaration, made available to the common soldier and specifically awarded to members of the United States armed forces that will pay the ultimate sacrifice in combat with a declared enemy of The United States of America on September 11, 2001 so officially has been designated as the day Veterans Affairs of Dallas/Fort Worth National Separate cemetery of Dallas, Texas, to remember and recognize veterans who are recipients of a Purple Heart medal. Now therefore, the Department of Texas Military Order the Purple Heart do hereby proclaim the name as the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery.”
Lisa Holmes, who is a veteran spouse, spoke to the crowd.
“I'm a veteran’s widow. My soldier died in January this year. John served as the Department of Texas Military Order of the Purple Heart State Commander for two years,” said Holmes. I am pleased to be here today and represent spouses of veterans who will be buried here.
“The oldest maintained Military Cemetery in the United States was Miles Standish, near Plymouth, Massachusetts. America has had no cemeteries really, until 1831. It's not that American citizens didn’t bury their dead – it was just that large, modern graveyards such as this did not exist.
“But it was with the construction of a cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts that the movement to build cemeteries in America began,” said Holmes. “They were built similar to a park so families would come out on Sundays, their only day off, and they would sit with their families and picnic. Our national cemeteries like this started in 1862. During the Civil War, the families and communities came out to decorate those graves and they started a movement, and the trend became a holiday. We call it Memorial Day. In 1973, national cemeteries administered by the army were transferred to Veterans Affairs," Holmes said.
“The DFW National Cemetery has cared for more than 73,000 who are buried here, and those who will be buried here, as they have space for 280,000. That would include someone like myself, a veteran spouse.
“Did you know that there are veterans that vary from all conflicts since WWII buried here today? The DFW National Cemetery has served as a resting place for several servicemembers who died in battle. And we're in Iraq and Afghanistan. Monday through Friday, there are burials in this beautiful place. I have been here on Saturday and Sundays and seeing the care given to our loved one’s gravesites. This work is done by VA employees. The staff is busy tidying up around each veteran’s grave.
“Many of them served in the military. Amongst all those who work here and volunteer here, they care. This is a veteran's final resting place. But this is also where the spouse rests. Military and veterans bear a lot in life. We pack up our household goods a million times and follow you wherever you go. And it's usually not fun. And it's never easy. In case of a death of a veteran, these good people made my experience and what seemed the coldest day of the year, in February this year, certainly the hardest day of my life. I was handed a folded flag and warm brass amongst friends. I almost felt I would shatter from the cold and the sorrow. And I want to thank the lovely ladies: The employee who came to me that sad day and spoke softly with me about each detail and how it would play out. I feel for the staff having to meet me on the worst day of my life. But they took on that challenge,” Holmes said.
“They do that every single day. And they do it with kindness. The families visit, the community gathers and remembers there's a lot to live up to and the DFW VA National Cemetery never disappoints. I am happy and certainly indebted to all the employees here. And I want to tell you on behalf of all Purple Heart spouses, all veterans and spouses who are here today that we want you, the staff of Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, to know that this recognition is our humble way of saying thank you for taking care of our families,” said Holmes.
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