Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fort Custer National Cemetery

Monday was Memorial Day in the United States, a day which we set aside to remember those who have given their lives in military service to our country.
If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that Doug and I have been doing some funeral planning. But we still haven't nailed down where we want to be buried. As a veteran, Doug is eligible for burial in one of our National Cemeteries; and, as his wife, I'm eligible to be buried with him.
So, on this Memorial Day, Doug and I, along with Doug's brother, visited Fort Custer National Cemetery, in Augusta, Michigan. At this cemetery, depending on which section the cemetery decides to bury us in, our graves could be side by side...or we could be stacked in the same burial plot.

Doug, ever the competitor, says that, if we have to be stacked, he wants to be on top because he wants to be the first one out of the hole when the Lord returns for His own.
The Avenue of Flags along the entrance road

Fort Custer National Cemetery is a beautiful place, heavily wooded, with sections cleared here and there for burial plots. The markers are flat, ground-level, stones; but each burial site was decorated with American flags on Memorial Day. Otherwise, it would pretty much look like meadows amidst woodland unless you were standing right over a marker.

One section of the cemetery

During World War II, more than 5,000 German prisoners of war were held at Fort Custer. Finding able farm labor during the war became a problem as more Americans were drafted into the military or worked in the factories producing war materials. Putting Fort Custer’s POWs to work seemed an efficient solution to the labor shortage.
The last German prisoners repatriated to their homeland departed Fort Custer in 1946. They left behind 26 comrades buried in the old post cemetery. Sixteen of the German POWs were killed in an accident when their truck collided with a train as they were returning to the fort from a work detail on a sugar beet farm near Blissfield, Mich. The other 10 died from natural causes.

The German Memorial

The 26 German graves

This shows a section of American burial plots adjoining the graves of the Germans.

Memorial Day is a holiday; and, like most holidays, it often means family gatherings, picnics, trips to the lake, etc. But I hope that this Memorial Day also included remembering...remembering the sacrifices others have made, allowing us to continue enjoying all of those pleasures.

And may remembering stir our hearts to gratitude for all of the men and women who have served or are currently serving in our armed forces.


  1. I love cemeteries like that. I'm sure you will choose a good one for both of you. We have opted for cremation --with our ashes scattered over a waterfall... Sounds like us, doesn't it????

    Hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day. Let's never forget what those men and women did to give us our freedom.


  2. A fine post, Linda. More and more, I'm seeing this sort of Memorial Day post than the barbeque and fireworks kind. It always perplexed me to see it celebrated in such a way. It's a day of remembering. You spent it in an interesting way.

    And I think that if you chose the layered burial, you need to insist on being buried with something in your hand with which to poke him. That'll teach Doug for calling dibs! ;)

  3. i like that the german POWs are honored and commemorated, too. i know they were enemies, but they were serving their country just like our soldiers - i think so many were just young men trying to do the right thing. *sigh*

    i like doug's LIFO method (an old accounting inventory method = last in; first out)

  4. This is a beautiful cemetery. I'm glad they are still decorating the graves on Memorial Day. I got a kick out of Doug's comment.

  5. Betsy - I haven't been to many National Cemeteries, but they ARE impressive. It really drives home the cost of freedom.

    Hilary - I thought later (of course) that I should have asked if we could be buried standing up so that we'd both have an equal start at the sound of the trumpet. :) But that prod idea has merit.

    Theresa - I was touched by the German memorial, too.

    George - Yeah, Doug's a hoot sometimes.

  6. This looks like a lovely place to be buried, even though I prefer to have my ashes scattered somewhere pretty. My father-in-law is buried here in Portland at the Willamette national Cemetery, another peaceful spot.

    1. Stephen - We were very impressed with Fort Custer National Cemetery. Later this week, we plan to visit another National Cemetery. Then we need to decide whether we want to bear the expense of burial in a regular cemetery close to home or take the money-saving option of burial in a more distant National Cemetery. Cremation, is an option that's never really appealed to us.

  7. Although a difficult topic to discuss and plan for, I commend you for writing about it in such a pragmatic, gracious way. Like TexWis I was struck by the honor those German soldiers were given. America truly is a great country. I must admit I chuckled about Doug wanting to be on top if the graves were stacked. :) It certainly is a beautiful cemetery.

    1. Thank you, Gail. For us, death is just a passage into a better life and not a topic to be avoided or stressed over. So planning our funerals and burials is just being practical. The memorial to the German POWs impressed me, too.

  8. The cemetery looks like a large park, Linda, it's a nice place. I also appreciate this matter-of-fact attitude of yours. I was very glad that my father told me before he died where he wanted to be buried as it saved us a lot of worries and disputes in the extended family. With my mom I can't speak about these matters at all.

    As for the cremation, it is very common here, usually in such a way that the ashes are put directly into the ground in a cemetery or into a urn which is then put into a grave.

    1. Petra - It does resemble a large park...very peaceful and relaxing. It just seems practical for Doug and me to make these arrangements ahead of time so that my niece and nephew don't find themselves dealing with it when we're gone. Cremation is common here, as well. It just doesn't appeal to us.

  9. Your new camera looks similar to our Cannon and I just learned you can go on "You Tube" and type the name of your camera in and take lessons free. I certainly know what you mean after taking pictures at (2) graduations last Sunday. There is a lot to learn and we have had ours for many years.

    Hope Doug is feeling better.


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