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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Windswept hills of the Mass. National Cemetery

In my last post, and first one from Falmouth, I mentioned that one of the first things I did when moving was to update my info with FindaGrave.com so that I would receive photo requests around my new home town area.

Wow.  Instantly, a pretty much unending slew of photo requests has been rolling in on an almost  hourly basis.  The other day, my iPhone was bleeping incessantly as I received 46 photo requests!  They were all for graves of folks buried at the Massachusetts National Cemetery.  Just a short 15-20 minute drive from my home - and I had never been there before.

After a few hours of spackling walls,  trying to plumb the depths of my finicky plumbing and unpacking more boxes at home, I headed up Route 28 to visit the Cemetery. It was a blustery, chilly day.  I arrived to a rather severe,  eerie landscape. With the trees and shrubs bare from winter, and the still-brown grass, the rolling hills and valleys feel like a science fiction landscape.

A view from Veteran's Way


The information center is quite arresting, as you enter the cemetery.  You can search for your deceased's grave at computer terminals both inside and outside the Center.  They also hand out paper maps of the cemetery.  I was not searching for anyone in particular.  The photo requests for this cemetery seem to be fulfilled by a few people, very quickly.  I assume they either work at the Cemetery, or live nearby and have taken on these memorials for FindaGrave as their own personal mission.

I did take the paper map and drive around the winding roads through this rather barren landscape.

Massachusetts National Cemetery Info Center
I am probably the last person to know, but I had no idea the gravestones were flat, in-ground stones.  I guess I expected to see either all white crosses, or the usual graveyard patchwork quilt of many different kinds of stones.  Did not expect at all, this blank canvas with an occasional pot of artificial flowers breaking the lonely landscape.

You will also drive by the committal monuments.  They too have a stark quality to them, rectangular concrete blocks perched on hillsides.  However, reading some of the stones finally gave me a sense of the human element to it all.  Was quite cheering: the real names, humor, and loving messages.
Alabiso: Meatball and Eggplant Secrets



In this short exploration, I could not yet determine how the graves were located.  The deceased side by side, served in WWII, Vietnam, Korea, etc.  No one committal monument location was designated for any one war.  I'm sure their website explains all this, or someone at the Info Center would be happy to oblige.




Monument
Hillside of invisible stones

And, I am sure the weather, the time of year and paucity of trees punctuating this cemetery all added to its rather disquieting, impersonal atmosphere.  I did not take to it.  In fact, with the many pickup trucks, tractors, and personnel humming around, I did feel like I'd stepped onto a military base without permission.  As I dashed around a hillside on foot in the cold, one nice guy stopped his big orange Kubota tractor and asked me if I needed help.

Well...yes.  Can you fix a leaking sink pipe??

I will revisit the Mass. National Cemetery in late Spring.  Maybe around Memorial Day.  I'm sure it will have a totally different ambiance.  And even though I purposely chose not to do preliminary online research on this cemetery, I also realize that the history of the cemetery and it's general rules, events and an explanation of the property is available at their website.

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