Beaufort South Carolina National Cemetery

I am drawn to national cemeteries — cemeteries at which honorably discharged veterans and our war dead are interred. They are hallowed ground.

Recently whilst visiting Beaufort, South Carolina (an absurdly charming, sparkling Southern seaport in the Low Country) I visited the Beaufort National Cemetery.

The Beaufort cemetery was established by President Lincoln in 1863 during the Civil War to receive the remains of Union dead.

The Union seized Beaufort early in the Civil War and used it to headquarter more than a hundred ships to blockade the South’s ports and thereby deny them trade and commerce with the world.

The brick walled cemetery is thirty-three acres of majestic, towering live oaks and limestone headstones that honor 19,000 veterans of the Civil War (including Confederate dead), the Spanish American War, the First World War, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf Wars (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan).

It is a reverent place, quiet, beautifully landscaped, and a worthy final resting place for those who served their Nation honorably in peace and war.

I have odd feelings when I visit such a cemetery. I have visited several.

I sometimes feel like the dead arise and circle around me and ask, “What is happening in America today? Was our service, our sacrifice worth it?”

I am from their class having been an Army brat, educated at Virginia Military Institute, served as a combat engineer officer, and both of my World War II veteran parents are buried in a state veterans cemetery side-by-side.

They may include men with whom I served. I know their language and I had the great privilege of leading men such as them.


While a soldier I notified mothers that their sons were killed and acted as a Survival Assistance Officer. I delivered remains to families. Death is a part of being a soldier.

I wonder how I might answer that question today.

Godspeed, good and faithful warriors. A grateful nation honors your sacrifice and mourns your passing. We are a nation only because of your service and sacrifice.

If you get a chance to visit a national cemetery, take it. It is a moving experience. It is a noble undertaking to report to our dead what we have done with the country they gave us.

Be well. I pray we are worthy of what others before us have done. God bless us all.