Monday evening’s sunset service — the only one of its kind in Cobb County, according to Councilman Tim Killingsworth — marked the second year Kennesaw has observed Memorial Day with a ceremony in the city’s cemetery.
The service attracted around 40-50 people, estimated Council member Jim Sebastian, a Marine veteran, for its second year in existence.
“It’s one of the quieter recognitions,” said Jacque Cullins, Secretary Treasurer for the Kennesaw Cemetery Preservation Foundation. “It’s something that we’re hoping we can do each year as a way to celebrate the veterans that are in the cemetery.”
Retired Sgt. Frank Cullins, a member of the American legion and veteran himself, said 85 veterans are known to be interned at Kennesaw Cemetery. Others, including six Confederate soldiers, are thought to occupy unmarked graves on the cemetery’s grounds.
Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, who is currently engaged in a primary runoff for the 11th Congressional District with former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, attended the service — his third graveyard ceremony in a string of weekend events commemorating the day.
“It’s one of those rare holidays — I guess Veteran’s Day would be the other one — where we sort of put aside all of those things that might divide us, whether it’s religion for religious holidays or politics or whatnot, and focus on the one thing that unites us all,” Barr said. “And that is thanking those that have given us the freedom that we enjoy to have a holiday.”
The ceremony commenced at dusk, beginning and ending with a processional through the cemetery’s brick gates.
After Councilman Tim Killingsworth sang the national anthem and read a poem, veteran Bob Kozora laid a rose at the base of the flag flying over the cemetery.
“The most important thing is remembering those who have served and who have given all for their country,” Kozora said of the event. He said he served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam era.
Councilwoman Debra Williams, who coordinated much of the event, said she first conceived of the service last year when helping American Legion members place flags on veterans’ graves within the cemetery.
“We started putting out the flags, and I asked them if they’d ever had taps blown here, and they said they had not,” she explained, adding she quickly made some phone calls and set up last year’s ceremony around the classic bugle call.
This year, Williams said she added several elements, but kept the ceremony brief.
“We wanted to keep it simple and meaningful and respectful,” she said.
Also in attendance was former Kennesaw Councilman John Dowdy, an Army veteran who served in Europe and Vietnam.
“If it wasn’t for them,” he said of the veterans being honored on Memorial Day, “you could be speaking German or Japanese. Think about that.”
Dowdy, who sat on the city council from 1999 to 2009, recalled the treatment of soldiers during the Vietnam era and compared the politicization of that war to the conflict in Afghanistan.
“Until we get politics out of war,” he warned, “young men and women are going to die.”