Those who gave the ultimate sacrifice
Tue, 05/30/2023 - 1:02pm caleb
Group provides update on Crawford County state-operated veterans cemetery project during memorial ceremony at Hanson Hills on Friday
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The group currently working toward bringing a state-operated veterans cemetery to Crawford County conducted a Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Johnson Hill U.S. Government Military Cemetery at Hanson Hills Recreation Area on Friday, May 26, and provided an update on the project.
According to an informational sign at Johnson Hill, the site “is quite possibly the smallest military cemetery in the United States” and it has a historical connection with Memorial Day. Johnson Hill is the burial location for two veterans: PFC John A. Conroy and PVT George A. Laine.
“The deceased both served with Michigan’s storied 125th Infantry Regiment. Forgotten and unmaintained over the years, their graves were discovered in the late 1950s when soldiers happened upon the burial site during a training exercise,” according to the Johnson Hill informational sign. “Headstones for the graves were purchased by the Quartermaster General’s Office in 1958, and a memorial service was held that same year on Memorial Day. This cemetery continues to be maintained by Camp Grayling Maneuver Training Center and elements of the 125th Infantry Regiment.”
“The chance to be laid to rest with your fellow service members when life comes to an end” is a great honor for service members, said Wayne Koppa, one of the members of the local veterans cemetery group.
“We are in the ideal place” for the cemetery, Koppa said.
Koppa said the process has been a lengthy one and it follows at least two failed attempts.
“The first time Grayling tried to do this was 1975. Then it happened again in 2001 and disappeared and we’ve kind of been working on this since 2017 and we’re very close,” Koppa said.
Carey Jansen, District #5 Crawford County Commissioner and part of the group spearheading the veterans cemetery endeavor, thanked those in attendance “for being here to honor our veterans and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
“We’re a strong, proud military town in Crawford County, so we’re really excited on the next developments, what’s happening, and what we’re bringing to the state of Michigan,” Jansen said.
“In December 2022 a bill was passed to get the first state-operated veterans cemetery to Michigan and we are continuing to work with the DMVA – the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs – on a pre-application to the federal government that’s due by July 1 to get that in Crawford County,” Jansen said. “While no specific site has been determined yet, we’re working closely with the DMVA and Camp Grayling to determine a great location. We’re really excited.”
“This will be the very first state-operated veterans cemetery for Michigan and it will be in our very own Crawford County. We couldn’t have done it without community support. We’re really excited to bring that to fruition,” Jansen said.
Koppa said the group expects to know the results of its July 1 pre-application in September and the group is looking at 100 acres for the size of the cemetery.