On Memorial Day, locals urged to remember the “unknown stories” of veterans

  • Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 12:58 a.m.
Bobby Cope Jr. hugs his 17-year-old son Dalton after Bobby placed a single rose on his mother’s headstone at the Salisbury National Cemetery. The Copes came from Lexington to visit her grave and attend the annual Memorial Day service held in the cemetery.
Bobby Cope Jr. hugs his 17-year-old son Dalton after Bobby placed a single rose on his mother’s headstone at the Salisbury National Cemetery. The Copes came from Lexington to visit her grave and attend the annual Memorial Day service held in the cemetery.

SALISBURY — At Salisbury National Cemetery, the Memorial Day festivities unfolded Monday under a clear blue sky.

The flags fluttered in the breeze. The ceremonial rifle volley, and the playing of “Taps,” took place there as they were taking place throughout America.


Rodney Cress, a combat veteran, told the audience, “Nothing makes a veteran more proud than to be on hallowed ground.”

“Looking out at the nearly 5,000 headstones that surround us, only one word comes to mind, and that is sacrifice,” Cress said.

On Memorial Day, Cress said, he was reminded of “so many unknown stories” that those grave markers represent.

“So many soldiers have done heroic acts, never to be recognized,” Cress said. “They did it not for medals, not for recognition, but they did it because they were soldiers.”

After the ceremony, John Szares and wife Angela walked out among those headstones.

They carried flowers to place at the grave of his father, John W. Szares.

Although he wore a hat that read “Vietnam Veteran,” Szares said no one had ever asked him about his time in service.

“It was a privilege,” Szares said.

John did not speak much about his own career. He suffered a stroke that he said has made it difficult to remember some details. Instead, he talks about the inspiration his father was to him.

He said his father inspired him to volunteer for service. For a time, he said, the elder Szares and his son served in the same area of Germany.

“He was a highly motivated gentleman, which enabled me to be the same way,” John Szares said.

John and Angela said that, before his death in 2011, his father had visited Salisbury and asked to be buried there.

Today, he said, “Most of the vets, all they want is to be recognized and appreciated.”

And, echoing a theme heard several times Monday, both John and Angela said they hoped that young people would appreciate veterans and their sacrifices.

“They take it for granted,” Angela said.

During his remarks, Cress said that an average of 680 World War II veterans and more than 300 Vietnam veterans are dying every day.

And many veterans of recent conflicts, he said, are committing suicide.

Cress said Americans should respond by reaching out and paying tribute.

“Every American should know, and every American should understand” why we honor those who lost their lives in service to their country, Cress said.

David Eberspeaker said his family has long understood the sacrifice veterans make.

His family comes as a group to the annual Memorial Day observance, including his father and mother, his wife and his children.

“We’ve been coming out here for twenty years,” Eberspeaker said

Today, his son, Jeffrey, 16, is an Eagle Scout and a Naval Sea Cadet, he said.

As a family, they walked among the gravestones, noting the stories each old tells of wars and honors earned.

“I’m proud to see a lot of support from the younger generation,” Jeffrey said, referring to the time spent by local Boy Scouts who decorated the graves with flags, and others who were there to pay tribute.

The patriotism there, he said, isn’t something he sees all the time at school.

“It’s kind of uplifting to see that I’m not the only one,” he said.

“Here we honor our veterans, living and dead,” David Eberspeaker said. “People take time away from their fishing trips, camping trips and barbecues to pay their respects.”

For those who served, and those who love them, it’s a story that will continue to be told.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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