While this day often marks the unofficial beginning of summer, we don’t want to lose sight of its true meaning – honoring those who gave their lives in service to this country.
We talked to families remembering their loved ones at Fort Gibson National Cemetery.
The cemetery has been open 150 years and it’s one of only two national cemeteries in Oklahoma.
“It’s a painful reminder to us every day that our freedoms that we enjoy in this great nation aren’t free,” said cemetery director Bill Rhoades.
There’s a lot of history, a lot of stories, and employees say they are dedicated to making sure that continues.
You can find the Pollard family among the sea of marble gravestones at Fort Gibson National Cemetery.
“Just being close to them, just feeling close to them on this day,” said Patricia Pollard.
In March of 1989, after 20 years in the Air Force, Patricia’s husband, Sgt. Stevie Allen Pollard died of heart disease.
Ten years later, in June of 1999, right after graduating high school, Pollard’s son Stevie Jr. died.
Both of them are buried at Fort Gibson National Cemetery.
Robbin Pollard says that, even though her brother and her father never got to meet her baby girl, she will bring her to the cemetery every year to remember them.
“Before my brother died there were a lot of things that I didn’t get to say to him,” Robbin said. “Even though I know he’s not here, it just gives me a little bit of peace.”
Rhoades says he is working hard to make sure the cemetery continues to bring peace to the community and to families of the fallen.
“Every one of these pieces of marble that’s out here in the ground represents somebody’s loved one, somebody’s hero,” he said.
Rhoades says there are more than 25,000 heroes buried on the 43-acre property.
By 2033, Rhoades expects the property to be full and he says they are already in talks of expanding.
“This cemetery is not going anywhere. It’s been here for 150 years and it’s not going anywhere,” declared Rhoades.
According to Rhoades, there are several properties adjacent to the cemetery that they are already looking at and, if for some reason those don’t work out, the plan is to purchase land close by.