Over this past weekend, Tim and I had a bit of free time. Something we have not had for quite a while! We decided to go play some Ingress, and there was a mission I had been wanting to do for some time. It took us to the grounds of the local VA Hospital. The Clement J. Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center is the actual name. Part of their campus is the Wood National Cemetery.
Many of you know that I have a deep respect for our military. I find it incredibly sad that the majority of the buildings on this property are in terrible condition. It is such a shame. However, that is a post for another day!
Since this month we celebrate Memorial Day, I figured this might be a good time to post this.
The cemetery really struck me. I know, you may think I am bizarre driving around in a cemetery. There is SO MUCH history there though! I did some research, and found out it is more fascinating than I originally thought!
The cemetery is approximately 50 acres. HUGE! It was established in 1871. The property is home to the Northwestern Branch of the Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. It was originally built to care for disabled Union veterans of the Civil War. It was in 1865 that Congress passed legislation to create homes for disabled volunteer soldiers. They would provide food, clothing, shelter, employment and medical care. This is the second one built in the nation. The money to build this was raised by The Wisconsin Soldiers’ Aid Society. This was a group of women that assisted veterans in downtown Milwaukee by providing food and temporary shelter.
There was originally a man made lake and pathways on the property. Residents and their families as well as area families could walk in the wooded area, picnic or just stroll along the pathways. These pathways were later paved. The construction of Interstate 94 cut right through the property, and the lake was filled in.
There are over 30,000 graves at Wood National Cemetery. It is humbling to drive through and see all of the headstones. Some are very weathered and hard to read. Others look to be recently replaced. Tim and I were discussing this, and we are not sure if the families of the deceased have replaced the stones? We just hope that those that do have weathered stones do not just disappear in history.
It is the only cemetery in the National Cemetery Administration that is co-located with both a Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a Veterans Affairs Regional Office.
Wood National Cemetery is the final resting place for veterans of the all wars spanning from the Civil War to the Vietnam War. They are currently not accepting internments unless the veteran or family member has an existing gravesite.
Five recipients of the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military decoration, are buried here! There are also members of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, The U.S. Colored Troops from Wisconsin and The first Union African American unit that was recruited in the north.
The first person to be buried here was John Afton, Private in Co. G, 1st Michigan Infantry. He passed on May 22, 1871. May he rest in peace.
There are some civilians buried here as well. Doctors that worked at the Northwestern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (the original name of the facility), their families, and other employees.
Throughout the cemetery are eight plaques with stanzas from the poem “The Bivouac of the Dead”. Here is a link if you are interested. I find it very touching. http://www.cem.va.gov/history/BODpoem.asp
If you get to Milwaukee, stop in, pay your respects. It is humbling.