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Continued: National cemeteries create a 'sacred grove' of equality

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 10, 2013 - 9:53 PM

A need for solemnity

The distinctive geometry of a national cemetery probably isn’t for everyone. Many veterans choose to be buried in family plots, beneath headstones that may reflect more personality, or a family’s sentiments.

In 1997, the Department of Veterans Affairs adopted the Inclusive Inscription Policy, which allowed for an additional inscription on the marker, within space limits. Walking through the newer sections of Fort Snelling, a visitor might see:

“He made a difference.”

“He always took the scenic route.”

“Smart, funny and loved.”

“Joined the Navy, saw the world.”

“A kind and good soft-spoken man.”

“A real character.”

“Saddle up, partner.”

“Never had it so good.”

For a time in the 1970s and 1980s, some cemeteries began using markers that were flush to the ground. While easier for caretakers to tend, the intent also was to create more of a bucolic, parklike atmosphere, according to a book of essays, “Places of Commemoration: Search for Identity and Landscape Design.”

But people missed the gravity of the ranks of markers, noting that they weren’t visiting a park, but a cemetery.

“The flat markers didn’t have the same look,” said Sporko, the cemetery designer. “It looked more like an open field.

“You don’t get that sense of …” He paused, recognizing that certain things can’t be described, but must be witnessed to be felt. “It’s quite a sight.”


Kim Ode • 612-673-7185


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