Memorial Day 2009 at the Ridges
Since 2005, the Ridges Cemeteries Committee has been organizing
Memorial Day Ceremonies for the many veterans - from the Mexican and Civil
Wars through the Korean War - buried in the three old psychiatric hospital
cemeteries. Prior to 2005, the veterans had never received such honors.
Indeed, neither they nor the others in those cemeteries had received more
than a very austere burial - no personalized service whatsoever. The purpose
of these ceremonies, therefore, has been to restore dignity to all 1,965
buried on the Ridges and to recognize the sacrifice of the veterans, many of
whom had probably suffered such severe war-induced post traumatic stress
disorder that their lives thereafter were largely ruined.
This year, there were two ceremonies. The first - a ceremony for the
veterans in all three cemeteries - featured an Ohio University AFROTC Color
Guard, a eulogy by World War II former POW Rev. Gene Parker, taps by Vietnam
Veteran Caroline Cade, and song by Harmony Connections.
The second ceremony followed immediately in the Old Tower Cemetery. It
celebrated the unveiling of the first government-regulation stone for a
veteran in the whole complex. The man being honored was #120, Sergeant Major
Nathan Connel Littler, an Ohio Volunteer who served through the entire Civil
War and fought in sixteen major battles. See Sergeant Major Littler’s full
The man who, in a manner of speaking, brought Littler
back to life for us was his great grandson John A. Houston of Preston,
Kansas. It took a great amount of research to determine in what state, and
then in what graveyard, Littler was buried. That done, Houston and our own
graveyard historian, Terry Gilkey, endured another struggle with government
bureaucracy before the stone finally arrived in Gilkey's office earlier this
year. Gilkey erected it just days before the ceremony. Mr.
Houston, his wife, and grandson, attended the special Memorial Day ceremony.
Though the day started out rainy, it cleared for our ceremonies. And
everything went off without a hitch.
Another piece of good luck was the interest the media took in the
ceremonies. Both the Athens Messenger and the Athens News ran stories, as did WOUB TV
(see A-News story,
here). And twice on Memorial Day, a segment
produced by Fred Kight was run nationally as part of NPR News. Our vets were
Appalachian Behavioral Health
Care, 100 Hospital Drive, Athens OH 45701
Phone: 740-593-7424 e-mail: