The Dayton National Cemetery is now offering full military funerals for veterans, as part of the Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Association’s movement to be a more positive presence in the City of Dayton.
Daniel Barford, an administrative support assistant at Dayton National Cemetery, said the goal is to “let people know the positive things about the VA.”
“We can honor veterans every day with the honor salute, and playing Taps, we do that every service,” Barford said.
Nick Hetzer, a cemetery technician and a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve, said the honor squad is comprised of all volunteers who attend every service. Barford said the cemetery averages between five and six services a day.
Dennis Adkins, a magistrate on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas and chairman of the cemetery’s support committee, said the federal government ranks VA cemeteries by how many funerals they perform each year. The top 20 cemeteries are required to provide full military services.
The Dayton National Cemetery is ranked “33rd or 34th,” said Adkins. Only 10 percent of the veterans buried in the cemetery received a full military funeral before the honor squad was started, Adkins said.
“We started doing the final salute in 2014, and the honor squad started this year. Now 100 percent of veterans are getting a full military funeral,” Adkins said, even though the cemetery is not ranked in the top 20.
Veterans of the U.S. military and their spouses may be buried in the cemetery, and veterans’ children may also be buried there if they are a dependent at the time of death.
Hetzer said the Dayton National Cemetery is the largest of the three original national cemeteries constructed under the Lincoln administration in 1867, and the central fixture of the cemetery monument is a pillar from a bank in Philadelphia designed by Benjamin Latrobe, who also helped design the U.S. Capitol building.
But what makes the national cemetery so special is all the employees are veterans, Hetzer said. It creates a sense of camaraderie and a feeling of “coming home” for the families who bury their loved ones in the cemetery and for the veterans who come to the Dayton VA Medical Center located behind the cemetery, he added.
“We all have the daily grind, but at the end of the day, when you stand and look at all these headstones, you have a real appreciation for what you do,” Hetzer said.