CALUMET - It wasn't Veterans Day or Memorial Day, but Tuesday afternoon local veterans gathered at Lakeview Cemetery to prove once again that fallen soldiers are never forgotten.
Representatives from eight local veterans groups gathered on a beautiful autumn day to dedicate a new monument with the names of 23 veterans buried at Lakeview Cemetery who never had a grave marker. About 300 veterans are buried in the cemetery, honored by individual grave markers and a much larger monument immediately next to the new monument.
"We don't know why they never received an individual grave marker, but today we are here to right that wrong," Gene LaRochelle, from the American Legion Post 61 in Calumet, said in a prepared statement.
Joe Finch, commander of American Legion Post 61, left, and Paul Remali, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars CLK Post 3900, place a wreath at the base of the new monument at Lakeview Cemetery in Calumet. (Daily Mining Gazette photo)
He has been the catalyst for six years of extensive research into the names and backgrounds of those buried in unmarked graves.
"We have gathered here today, because today we are their family," LaRochelle continued. "They have remained nameless, for some, over 100 years. But, today, we can call their muster by name. Today, we can take pride in the fact that as U.S. military veterans we have remained true to our military code - leave no soldier behind - and as a corollary to that code, recognize and honor those who have honorably served their country."
Of the 23 soldiers, 13 of them served in the Civil War, and some served even before that.
For example, John H. White, who died March 1925, served in the Mexican-American War. Frank W. Johnson died in April 1901, having served in the Spanish-American War. Matti Pietila, who died August 1906, also served in the Spanish-American War. Charles Beety is the longest deceased on the roster, having passed in June 1899, while John M. Wiig died in May 1959.
"This culminates about six years of work," LaRochelle said. "That's the first time I think some of their names have been said, some of them in over 113 years, and we are proud to do so."
The small ceremony also consisted of Sgt. Joseph Battisfore from the 107th Engineer Battalion Association unveiling the 3-foot high by 30-inch wide monument; a benediction prayer by Rev. Ken Toth; a military prayer by Joe Finch, commander of American Legion Post 61; the placing of a wreath at the base of the monument by Finch and Paul Remali, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars CLK Post 3900; and a recorded playing of "Taps," as the veterans and members of Calumet High School's Junior ROTC program rendered salute.
"Keep us ever mindful of our obligation to those who have made the supreme sacrifice to our country and her noble purpose," Toth said in his prayer. "Help us remember with reverence the value and devotion of these departed comrades."
It is not known which name lines up with each unmarked grave, so LaRochelle and eight donor groups decided a monument would be the most fitting tribute.