2007 Memorial Day
Torchlight Tour
Chattanooga National Cemetery

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 SUVMRC63 Main Page     2007 Torchlight Tour Begins     Photos  Posted June 3, 2007 

We continue our 2007 Torchlight Tour of Chattanooga National Cemetery on May 28, 2007.

Louis Varnell reaches for a flashlight to assist with his reading about William F. Zion of the Marine Corps. One of seven Medal of Honor recipients buried in this cemetery, Zion has the distinction of being a veteran of the Boxer Rebellion where he earned his Medal on July 21, 1900. Also of note, he was in charge of a German POW barracks in Fort Oglethorpe during World War I. He died of an apparent accidental gun shot wound while cleaning the weapon on March 25, 1919.

[Below, left] Leonard Earl Brown of Tennessee served in the Marine Corps during World War I. Although his service record was not revealed here, it was discovered that he made a significant contribution to the memory of WWI soldiers long after his death in November 1932. Private Brown managed to hold onto his military uniform during his lifetime. Years after his death, the uniform was re-discovered and about to be consigned to the trash pile. However, it was rescued at the last minute and soon became a valuable item on display in the Southeast Veterans Museum

Now we see why they call this a Torchlight Tour! The limited light provides a special highlight to the white markers nearby even though thousands are all around.
[Left] Ray Duke was a master sergeant in the army and a veteran of the Korean War. He won his Medal of Honor, not in a moment of gun blazing glory, but from a long and torcherous ordeal as a prisoner of war. Given a choice to receive food and medical attention for his wounds in exchange for military information, Ray Duke chose to reveal only his name, rank and serial number. Day after day went by and he continued to refuse to disclose any shred of information that would be valuable to the enemy. Eventually, he fell victim to starvation while keeping intact his own code of honor.
[Left] At the time of this Tour, Desmond Doss was the latest Medal of Honor recipient to be buried in the Chattanooga National Cemetery. His wife, Dorothy, preceded him by fifteen years (note her name on the reverse side of the marker at right). A conscientious objector, he refused to carry a weapon but valiantly served as a combat medic during World War II. Desmond Doss' medal was won through his heroic actions by rescuing under fire 50 to 75 wounded soldiers during the fight on Okinawa. He deferred medical attention for his own wounds until his fellow soldiers were treated first. A portion of Georgia Highway 2 is named in his honor.
At the grave of Michael Blake, we learn that he was wounded in the Vietnam War. He was sent to the states to recover from wounds which necessitated a long hospital stay. Anxious to get home to his parents, he drove 11 straight hours only to have his journey end abruptly in a car accident on Thrasher Bridge. The tragedy of his death was compounded by the fact that he was only within a mile from home when it happened. His mother serves as President of the Gold Star Mothers in this area.

[Left] James Kelly Keith, III was killed in action in Vietnam. His mother wrote to him almost daily. When news of his death came to her, she was in the process of writing another letter. As each of the previously written but undelivered letters were returned, she would be notified again and again of James' death.

[Above] Note that on the reverse side of his stone is his father's name, James Kelly Keith, Jr., a veteran of World War II. Both share the same grave site, one seven feet down, the other five feet down. This Veterans Administration policy allows more veterans to be buried within the limited grounds of this cemetery.

[Above] This year's Tour ended on the hill top within the Memorial Circle of Honor. As the bright lights illuminated the large National Flag and the POW/MIA flag, Jim Ogden delivered appropriate closing remarks to all those who attended the ceremony this evening. The group left with the satisfaction of knowing that they had helped to fulfill General John Logan's orders - "...In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit." [Left] A soldier's death is marked by the familiar helmet upon rifle and empty boots.

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