In honor of Veterans Day and in memory of our fallen soldiers, particularly those of the Civil War era, the Anacostia Coordinating Council was honored and proud to be a participating member that helped organize the Veterans Remembrance Ceremony at Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus, on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm.
A sunny and pleasant day set the stage for an event featuring members of the military, community organizations, residents, students, even Civil War reenactors, honoring our Nation's soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Schafler was master of ceremonies at the grounds of the historic Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Campus Cemetery, resting place of over 3,000 burial plots of Civil War Veterans, both Union and Confederate. The event sponsor and creator, the Congress Heights Cemetery Committee (CHCC), is an organization composed of local and regional stakeholders working to "gently restore [Ward 8] cemeteries to a place of honor and dignity" for those buried there.
The program included the posting of the Nation's Colors by the Coast Guard Honor Guard and the Anacostia High School Junior ROTC Program, the singing of the National Anthem by the combined Coast Guard Headquarters and Saint Elizabeths Hospital choruses and invocation by Rabbi Elhanan Schnitzer of the Bethesda Jewish Congregation.
Remarks were delivered by Dr. Patrick Canavan, CEO of Saint Elizabeths Hospital, who reminded those in attendance that Union and Confederate soldiers are laid to rest here, as well as civilian patients, and spoke of the historical significance the Hospital has played in the nation's history. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo spoke of the sacrifice made by soldiers in service and support of our freedoms. ACC Chairperson Arrington Dixon appealed to the youth in the audience to take note of the proud legacy of African-Americans in our nation's millitary and to consider military service. Harley Felstein, a founding member of CHCC, invited the audience to consider the important role of cemeteries as places of respect, contemplation and connection to our past, present and future.
A stirring keynote address was delivered by Dr. Frank Smith, Director of the African American Civil War Museum, who embodied the connection of the present to the past dressed in the garb of a Civil War officer. In his speech, he challenged the audience not only to admire from afar the heroic feats of courage of escaped, freed slaves, and free men, but also to follow the example of people like First Lady Michelle Obama who were encouraged to trace their ancestry and genealogy to brave souls of the past. He also thanked ACC Executive Director Philip Pannell for bringing him into the planning of and participation in this event.
The event closed with a moment of silence and the playing of Taps. Then the audience was invited to place flags at the headstones of Cemetery's burial resting places.
If you would like to be a part of the Congress Heights Cemetery Committee or help in the work of preserving burial grounds such as these, you may contact Mr. Harley Felstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.