Cumberland Times-News

Local News

May 26, 2013

Veterans cemetery hosts Memorial Day ceremony

Expansion planned at 15-acre site near state park

CUMBERLAND — ROCKY GAP — Mike Gregory, superintendent of the Rocky Gap Veterans Cemetery, got to work early Wednesday and planted flowers in preparation for the Memorial Day program and the summer season that will follow.

“It’s common to have 200 to 300 visitors on a weekend, as long as the weather is good,” said Gregory, who has managed the cemetery for Maryland veterans for a little more than a year.

Visitation to the 3,800 or so gravesites of veterans and their dependents peaks on holidays as well, such as Mothers Day, Fathers Day and of course Memorial Day and Veterans Day, according to Gregory.

Averaging 200 burials annually, the cemetery on Pleasant Valley Road near Rocky Gap State Park opened in 1981. There are expansion plans.

“We have 15 acres within the fence and plan to add 12 acres on the side of the cemetery toward the state park camping area,” Gregory said during a walking tour. In addition, a columbarium that is to be built near the chapel will provide room for hundreds of urns of veterans who choose cremation, though construction is likely years away.

The cemetery office is open 365 days a year from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but burials are scheduled only on weekdays, beginning at 9 a.m. through mid-afternoon. The grounds are maintained by three employees and there is an office secretary.

The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs operates five such cemeteries, the others being Cheltenham, Crownsville, Eastern Shore and Garrison Forest.

The rate of military burials could slow, based upon a number of factors, according to Gregory.

For example, speaking to The Associated Press a few years ago, Martin Morgan, an historian for the World War II Museum in New Orleans, predicted that the last of the 16 million veterans from that war will have died by 2020.

The size of the U.S. military in recent years has been about 3 million, according to a variety of online sources.

The Memorial Day program begins Monday at 2 p.m. State Sen. George Edwards will be the keynote speaker.

The National Anthem will be sung by Sara Farmer, Miss Cumberland’s Outstanding Teen. Rodger Long, chaplain of Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 172, will give the invocation. The Ali Ghan Shrine Band will provide music.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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