Families of veterans share their memories

Friday, May 27, 2011 | 7:58 p.m. CDT; updated 9:06 a.m. CDT, Monday, May 30, 2011
Marsha Nelson, 58, places flowers at her mother and father's tombstone, located in Memorial Park Cemetery.

COLUMBIA – Marsha Nelson’s father, James H. Burnett, never spoke much about what happened during his time in the Navy.

The Ashland native’s time in the service stretched through World War II and allowed him to experience the attack on Pearl Harbor firsthand from aboard a destroyer ship.

“He was a torpedo man,” Nelson said. “When they bombed Pearl Harbor, he was in the ocean at the top of a (destroyer ship) and saw the whole thing happen. After he told us that, he said that he wanted to put it behind him.”

Nelson, 58, is a registered nurse at Truman Veterans Hospital.

Working with veterans has helped Nelson understand why her father was never willing to share more about his time in service.

“I found out that they, too, did not express what they did because of all the devastating things they saw,” Nelson said. “They did not want to relive it. They wanted to suppress it.”

Nelson placed flowers on the ground at her mother and father's graves in Memorial Park Cemetery. An arrangement with light blue flowers encircling a picture of Mary and Jesus was already in place.

“His favorite color was blue,” Nelson said of her father’s flowers. “And then we have the yellow for the Missouri Tigers.”

Nelson was just one of many people at Memorial Park Cemetery on Friday to honor a veteran for Memorial Day. A brisk wind rustled the 300 to 400 American flags lining the cemetery’s walkways, stretching their fabric to reveal winding paths of stars and stripes. "Avenue of the Flags" was created to “honor all who have served the United States in a time of war or peace,” according to the cemetery’s program for the weekend.

Everett L. Roberts, brother to Fern James, was a military policeman at Fort Leonard Wood.

“Everett is represented by one of those flags,” James said.

“He joined the service to tour everywhere; he wanted to see the world," James said, “but he didn’t get to. The furthest he got was Georgia for MP training. Then he went back to Fort Leonard Wood for the rest of his service."

Roberts died of cancer in 1989, after a lifetime of deer hunting, fishing and trapping, James said.

“He would be proud of his three grandchildren,” James said. “I try to come here throughout the year. I like to put flowers on his grave and make it look pretty. I’ve been coming for years and years.”

Cindy Booker was at the cemetery for her first Memorial Day weekend visit for her dad, John Grant, who died last Saturday at age 76.

“He was very proud of his service,” Booker said.

Booker’s mother, Lena Grant, stood by her side with a box of flowers from John Grant’s funeral.

“He was stationed in Japan,” Lena Grant said. “He was at that age so that he served in between the wars. Korea was fresh in everyone’s mind when he went there.”

Raymond McDaniel, however, did serve in the Korean War. McDaniel’s sister Maxine stood by her brother’s gravestone with her niece and her sister, admiring the yellow and white lilies and small American flag.

“He wouldn't keep curfew, so my dad took him down to the enlisting office and signed him up,” she said. “He left in February and died six months later.”

McDaniel was 20 when he died in 1951, while serving his country.

Memorial Park Cemetery will have an ongoing balloon release along with a barbecue from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m Monday. Red, white and blue balloons will be available in the cemetery's office all weekend.

Columbia Cemetery will honor the holiday by having Columbia Cemetery Association board members hand out flags and participate in a meet and greet with cemetery visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday through Monday.

“It is our busiest weekend,” said Leah Herling, office manager at Memorial Park Cemetery. “We passed out surveys to visitors last year. There were 800.We ran out.”

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