By Randy Pierce
Nix/Judy Pioneer Cemetery, which dates all the way back to 1801, in Glen Carbon was the one of hundreds of locations throughout the United States where special ceremonies took place on Dec. 17 honoring deceased American military service veterans.
Accompanied by members of the Cahokia Mound Chapter National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Veterans of Foreign Wars representatives conducted a brief ceremony which was followed by the laying of the wreaths on 26 graves Saturday at this historic site, which is located near the Interstate 270 and Illinois Route 157 interchange.
Dale Anderson, a member of Caseyville VFW Post 1117, served as master of ceremonies for the wreath ceremony which officially began when about 25 people present joined him in saying the Pledge of Allegiance then he shared an electronic device recording of the National Anthem.
Following his introductory statement, Anderson asked for a moment of silence in memory of the fallen veterans, prisoners of war and missing in action who have served the United States.
As explained by Anderson during the ceremony on this day that it took place, the gathering was a follow up to last year when more than 2700 locations such as the Nix/Judy cemetery were the sites where Americans gathered to pay tribute to deceased veterans.
Anderson prefaced his formal remarks by commenting on some recent opposition to the Wreaths Across America event, because of its placement of wreaths on the graves of veterans who were of faiths other than Christian.
The nonprofit Military Religious Freedom Foundation on its website says the wreaths are a Christian symbol and should not be placed on graves of other faiths without family permission. Wreaths Across America says the decorations are not religious in nature. It describes the decorations as “Veterans Wreaths” or “Remembrance Wreaths” and says the purpose of the decorations are to honor American heroes.
“Wreaths Across America,” Anderson said, “is not affiliated with any religion or political view. It is our mission to remember all the fallen, honor those who serve and their families and teach the next generation the value of freedom. Our goal as an organization is to use this dialogue as an opportunity to share and teach younger generations about the diversity of our American heritage and the freedoms for which so much was sacrificed.”
After commenting about the nation’s standing as a shining beacon of liberty and freedom to the world and thanking the veterans, Anderson went on to add how they have fought to protect the innocent and oppressed with the United States being the first to stand up for the freedom of others around the world.
The people lying in the graves at the cemetery who were being honored by having wreaths placed at their headstones, Anderson said, have been “part of the best-trained, best-equipped force in the world.”
He further quoted the late American President Ronald Reagan in saying, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Prior to fanning out on the grounds to place wreaths at each veteran grave, some individual members of the group in attendance came forward one-by-one to hang wreaths on specially set up hooks at the center of the property to recognize each branch of the U.S. military service including the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines along with one for the POW/MIAs.
Those individuals were Rich Retterman, Stephanie McOlgan, Lance McOlgan, Jean Ratterman, Tim Patterson, Bob Rosner, Mary Honkele and Lynda Patterson.
When the live balsam fir wreaths were set on the graves, the person doing so said that veteran’s name and took a moment to thank him or her, offering a salute in some cases. After all the participants had done so, everyone gathered once more at the point where the ceremony began and stood solemnly while “Taps” played to close the program.
According to markers in place at this site, Nix/Judy Pioneer Cemetery has the graves of some of the earliest families of the “Goshen Settlement” in Madison County, laid to rest even before the Lewis and Clark westward exploration expedition occurred. The “Madison Territory” at that time extended to what is now the Canadian border.
An inventory of these gravestones has been placed on register with the Madison County Historical Society.
There are veterans of the Revolutionary War at the Nix/Judy cemetery including Josias Wright, Isham Randle, Henry Thornhill, Richard Randle, William Biggs and John Nix.