Memorial Day at Camp Nelson: Veterans' families take time to remember

WWII Vet made ceremony tradition that children plan to continue

jkegley@herald-leader.coJune 1, 2010 

  • Honor guard in need

    The Camp Nelson Honor Guard may share a name with the national cemetery, but the group doesn't receive funding through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    "We exist just by donations, and we're hoping to find some corporate sponsors," Commander Tracy Lucas said, "but so far we haven't gotten any grants or corporate sponsors, and we need that desperately."

    The guard, which is about 3 years old, recently started asking for a $250 honorarium for its services, Lucas said.

    "If a veteran can't pay it, it's not an invoice, but we have to try to survive somehow," Lucas said.

    Donations may be sent to 213 Southtown Branch Road, Nicholasville, Ky. 40356.

For many visitors at Camp Nelson National Cemetery, Monday was the first Memorial Day they spent without the company of their beloved veteran or active-duty family member.

Widows, daughters and sons placed flags and flowers at the base of hundreds of gravestones, but those survivors whose wounds were still fresh were not hard to spot; their tears and hugs flowed freely.

Three such visitors paid respects to their father, World War II veteran Isaac Lucius Kinard. Christine Denoylles, Cynthia Focareto and Ed Kinard laughed, and occasionally cried, as they shared memories of their father.

"He was a comedian and a half. He had the worst jokes in the world, but you had to laugh," Ed Kinard said.

Isaac Kinard, 83, of Danville, died of natural causes in March. He had entered the Navy when he was 17, and his tour of duty was spent as an electrician's mate in the Pacific theater.

"He also was a spotter when they were in battle," Denoylles said. "He was up by the radar, and he would spot the Japanese planes."

Ed Kinard said his father was proud of his time in the service, and Denoylles said he brought the family to the Camp Nelson ceremony every Memorial Day.

In his honor, they plan to continue visiting every year, after spending Sunday at Churchill Downs. After his family and his country, Isaac Kinard's next biggest passion was horse racing, Focareto said.

Isaac Kinard is one of about 400 veterans, spouses and active-duty soldiers buried at Camp Nelson in the last year, bringing the total number of graves to about 12,000, said Pat Lovett, director of the Kentucky National Cemetery Complex.

More than 1,000 people turned out for the yearly ceremony, filling the cemetery parking lot to capacity and forcing some visitors to park on the road.

Several speakers took the stage, including Lovett, 1st Lt. Robert McWhorter with the Walton National Guard, and Jerry McClure, a Piqua Shawnee storyteller and Navy veteran.

The West Jessamine High School band played the national anthem, taps and God Bless America. Several honor guards were present, including Camp Nelson Honor Guard, a volunteer, non-profit organization.

Speakers took the time to not only honor America's war dead, but also to thank organizations and individuals for facilitating the purchase of 21 acres of land at the rear of the cemetery, which will effectively double the burial space. The land was previously owned by Camp Nelson Heritage Park, a county-owned historical site next to the cemetery.

The land was purchased with a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery Administration.

The current 30-acre cemetery, which includes buildings and driveways, has a capacity of about 15,000 grave sites, Lovett said. The new 21-acre plot will bring the total to about 30,000.

During his speech, Howard Howells, chairman of the Central Kentucky Veterans Committee, said officials closed the cemetery to new burials in 1964 before more space was granted in the 1970s.

"They always say you don't need the space," said Howells. "But ... as long as this nation is free ... there will be a need."

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