Homage paid to veterans buried at Riverside Cemetery

hgoodridge@macon.comMay 19, 2013 

Cindy Ortiz of Bugles Across America plays taps Sunday at Riverside Cemetery during a Memorial Day Commemoration.

HAROLD GOODRIDGE — hgoodridge@macon.com

As Ian McMullen read aloud Sunday the list of 39 names of veterans buried at Riverside Cemetery since Nov. 11, 2011, something was very obvious.

Most of them were from World War II.

Now in their 80s and 90s, a veteran from WWII dies approximately every two minutes, according to recent figures from the U.S. Veterans Administration. Today, there are just over 1 million surviving veterans from that conflict and its estimated by 2036 there will be none, according to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

McMullen read the names at a Memorial Day commemoration and wreath laying ceremony at the historic Macon cemetery.

As McMullen, one of the organizers of Sunday’s event, and his wife placed flags on the graves of veterans interred at Riverside, he too noticed the fast rate in which WWII vets are leaving this Earth taking with them the stories, horrors, victories and lessons learned from that war.

“They’re part of that generation that’s passing,” he said. “It’s important to remember them. We don’t realize the toll it (WWII) had on the guys and ladies who were in it. It’s important we have events like this for them.”

The featured portion of Sunday’s event was Mauriel and Rick Joslyn speaking about Georgia soldiers in World War I.

The last known veteran of that war, a British woman named Florence Green, died in February 2012 at 110 years old.

“All WWI vets are gone,” said Rick Joslyn, who gave his presentation dressed in a full WWI uniform. Joslyn said it’s critical that the oral histories are recorded from surviving WWII vets because 90 percent of their service records were destroyed in a St. Louis fire in the 1970s in a federal facility where their records were centralized.

“It’s easier to research Civil War service records than WWII (service records),” he said. “Many (WWII vets) go to their graves with untold stories.”

Getting the stories from the men and women who were there is much different than getting it from a history book, said Mauriel Joslyn, who, like her husband, was outfitted in a WWI uniform Sunday.

“They witnessed it. They fought there. Their perspective is different from us just reading it in a book,” she said. “Their knowledge is living history.”

Mauriel Joslyn, who teaches history at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, said she had the pleasure of meeting a WWI aviator years ago. “It was like meeting history face-to-face,” she said. “We need to look at World War II like that.”

To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.

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