O-bits: Remembering the Dead Edition

Today is Veterans Day. Everyone should at at least a moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by our armed forces and their families. Military.com lists many of the events commemorating the holiday.

US Air Force

We’ve all heard of the Unknown Soldier, but what about a soldier whose remains are unclaimed. Thomas Young Behrens served honorably in Vietnam, but when he died recently at the Perry Point Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Maryland,  no one presented themselves to claim his body. As the Cecil Daily Whig reports, the center, and a local funeral home, made sure he did not die unremembered. He was laid to rest accompanied by dozens of mourners. This was not a one-time event. According to Fred Zellman, a funeral director who staged the burial, “we don’t know the reasons why, but it happens more than what it should,” He is also working to put together a database so no member of our military is sent to their final resting place unremembered.

The Sutherland Springs, Texas shooting continues to reverberate. This New York Times story is heartbreaking—the cemetery where most of the town’s dead are interred is having trouble burying all the victims.  As  Cardenas-Lomas, the head of the town’s cemetery board, told the paper, they usually bury only 15 people a year; the 26 killed at the First Baptist Church is putting a strain on their facilities. A funeral director is having to call as far as Dallas for hearses, the cemetery is trying to schedule the services so the funerals don’t all happen at one time. And the psychic toll is being felt throughout the town. “Rural cemeteries in Texas like the one in Sutherland Springs are as much a space for the living as for the dead,” said Ana Juárez, an anthropologist at Texas State University, says. As Ms. Cardenas-Lomas, said “This feels like a terrifying, crushing nightmare except that I’m somehow awake.”

Todd Heisler/NYTimes
Steven Mirkin

Steven Mirkin’s diverse career has taken him from politics to pop culture to high art, offering him a front row seat to some of the most fascinating events and personalities of our time: writing speeches, fundraising appeals and campaign materials for Ed Koch, John Heinz and independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson; chronicling the punk/new wave scenes in New York and London; interviewing musicians such as Elton John, John Lydon and Buck Owens; profiling modern masters Julian Schnabel, Paul Schrader and Jonathan Safran Foer; and writing for TV shows including 21, The Chamber, Let's Make A Deal, and Rock Star: INXS.

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