Jacksonville Ladies in the St. Augustine Record
September 17, 2010 View The Article
Three cheers: Jacksonville Ladies, Vets are special
Florida Times Union
February 1, 2010 – 1:00am
Our Veterans deserve support on many fronts.
And Jacksonville Volunteers are providing it in a special way by making sure someone attends every funeral for a Veteran at the Jacksonville National Cemetery on the Northside.
The Jacksonville Ladies, a Volunteer group of about 40 women, show up and make sure that no Veteran is buried without someone there to show respect and support the families, The Times-Union reported.
That support can come in various forms, from praying with family members to just offering condolences.
It’s no casual effort; roughly 2,000 Veterans and family members have been buried there since the Cemetery opened in January 2009, The Times-Union reported.
The Volunteer work was inspired by a similar group at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.
Regardless, it’s a thoughtful and classy thing to do, and one that illustrates in yet another way just how important the military and those who have served in it are in our community.
Applause for the Jacksonville Ladies for reaching out and making a difference.
Ladies lend their comfort, Reverence at solemn site. Group of women make it their mission that no Veteran will be buried alone .
For Kathy Cayton, her strongest memory from the cemetery might be the cookie jar urn she helped bury last year.
Jacksonville National Cemetery had just been opened for a few days when it received the jar, the final resting place for the ashes of a World War II Veteran’s widow.
The Veteran was 88 years old. The weather was frigid, and he wasn’t able to come to the cemetery to see the urn buried.
That’s when Cayton stepped in, taking pictures of the entire proceedings and sending them to him.
“We got a phone call a few days later,” she said. “He so appreciated that.”
That man wasn’t the only one to be touched by Cayton and the 40 other Volunteers who make up the Jacksonville Ladies, a Volunteer Organization from which someone attends every funeral at the National Cemetery.
“We just want to be able to help somebody at a time that’s hard for them,” said Barbara Hamilton, who’s been volunteering at the Cemetery even before it opened.
Veterans and politicians fought for the cemetery for years before ground was finally broken in 2008. Since the site opened in January 2009, roughly 2,000 Veterans and family members have been buried there.
That’s a bit more than organizers expected, said Arleen Ocasio, former director of the cemetery.
“That just says that absolutely a National Cemetery was needed here in the area,” she said. “The Veterans in the community are taking advantage of the benefits they earned.”
As they do, the Jacksonville Ladies are there for the Veterans or their families.
The group was inspired by a similar organization at Arlington National Cemetery, an idea that has taken hold at just a few other National Cemeteries.
The main reason for the group’s existence is to be there when no one else is, to make sure no Veteran is buried alone.
But they’re there for those who aren’t alone, too.
When family or friends are at the burial, the Ladies may pray with them or talk with them, if so desired, or simply pass on their condolences.
Jodie Raymond remembers the funeral where a little boy sat weeping and she just sat next to him.
“He just needed an arm to cry on,” she said. “We give hugs sometimes.”
Cayton, the leader of the group, got involved when her Navy Wives Club chapter helped at the cemetery’s ground-breaking and someone suggested they stay involved.
“We quickly found out that we’d have to open this to a lot of other groups,” she said.
Many of the women who now Volunteer are members of either lineage organizations — those made up of women whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary, Civil or 1812 wars — or Navy Wives groups. Membership in such a group isn’t required to volunteer with the Jacksonville Ladies, though.
As the Cemetery continues to grow, the Ladies are looking for more Volunteers, more women who can lend an arm or an ear.
“They appreciate us being there for them,” Cayton said about the families of those being buried. “There’s been some very large services where there’s lots of support. And there’s services where there’s just one widow.
“Either way, we’ll sit there and comfort them and show our appreciation.”