Updated: Jun 8, 2019
May 26, 2019
Written & photographed by: Mark Rhodes
As I rode my motorcycle to Bushnell National Cemetery, I tried to form an idea of how I would accomplish my task. The task, I placed upon myself, was to tell a story of honor and commitment. The air was cool that morning. Not cold, not unpleasant, but comfortably cool as it flowed over the bike. As I entered Bushnell National Cemetery the roadway was lined with American flags fluttering lightly in the morning breeze. Though I had been here many times in the past, today’s entry to this hallowed ground felt different.
Before entering the various areas and rows of markers you pass by the above monument, a tribute to those who have fallen in action during a time of war. The quiet and peaceful serenity speaks to the thousands who have paid the ultimate price, in defense of freedom. It is a solemn reminder of friends or family lost in the many wars the USA has been involved in.
I found the area assigned to the Marine Corps League, Detachment 1267. There were signs that some family members were already there.
Members of Detachment 1267 began to arrive and congregate. They were all honored to be there to remember and pay respect those who are now in their final resting place.
The placing of the flags begins after TAPS is played. Honors are rendered during the recital.
The first area to receive a flag is the Medal Of Honor recipients.
Laid to rest in Bushnell National Cemetery is
Medal of Honor Recipient,
James R Hendrix, Master Sergeant
United States Army.
James Richard Hendrix (August 20, 1925 – November 14, 2002) was a United States Army Master Sergeant and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration for valor—the Medal Of Honor—for his actions in Belgium during World War II.
Hendrix was born and raised in Lepanto Arkansas, the oldest child of a sharecropper with fourteen children. He left elementary school at West Side after the third grade to work in the fields in order to help his family at home. He learned marksmanship skills while hunting for food. In 1943, at age 18, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He was sent to basic training in Florida, the first time he had been more than a few miles from his hometown. He became a member of the 4th Armored Division after basic training.
He was sent to Europe as a private with Company C, 53rd Armored Infantry Battalion, 4th Armored Division. After waiting out the invasion of Normandy aboard ship in the English Channel, the 4th AD landed on Utah Beach on June 11, 1944, and joined the drive across France and into Belgium as the spearhead of General George Patton's Third Army.
During the Battle of the Bulge, on December 26, 1944, near Assenois, Belgium, Hendrix a bazooka man, captured two enemy artillery guncrews, and armed with a rifle, held off the fire of two machine guns until wounded comrades could be evacuated, and then rescued a soldier from a burning vehicle. He was presented the Medal of Honor by President Truman at a White House ceremony on August 23, 1945; he was awarded the medal on September 1, 1945.
Hendrix re-enlisted in 1945, and became a paratrooper; during parachute training he broke his leg when his chute didn't open. He reached the rank of master sergeant and served in combat with a parachute unit during the Korean War and served briefly during the Vietnam War before retiring from the Army in 1966. He died of cancer at age 77 and was buried in the Florida National Cemetery , Bushnell, Florida.
Medal of Honor citation
Hendrix's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
On the night of 26 December 1944, near Assenois, Belgium, he was with the leading element engaged in the final thrust to break through to the besieged garrison at Bastogne when halted by a fierce combination of artillery and small arms fire. He dismounted from his half-track and advanced against two 88mm, guns, and, by the ferocity of his rifle fire, compelled the guncrews to take cover and then to surrender. Later in the attack he again left his vehicle, voluntarily, to aid 2 wounded soldiers, helpless and exposed to intense machinegun fire. Effectively silencing 2 hostile machineguns, he held off the enemy by his own fire until the wounded men were evacuated. Pvt. Hendrix again distinguished himself when he hastened to the aid of still another soldier who was trapped in a burning half-track. Braving enemy sniper fire and exploding mines, and ammunition in the vehicle, he extricated the wounded man and extinguished his flaming clothing, thereby saving the life of his fellow soldier. Pvt. Hendrix, by his superb courage and heroism, exemplified the highest traditions of the military service.
The job is simple. Walk up to the grave marker and introduce yourself. Place the American flag at 1 foot centered below the edge of the grave marker, seated 2-3 inches into the soil. Stand at the position of attention and read aloud the name on the grave marker, render a hand salute (or place your hand over your heart), and lastly, thank the individual for their service and tell them, "you are not forgotten".
Louis William Kish was the first Marine I found. Semper Fi Devil Dog! As you may be able to see, PFC Kish served in WWII and would have been 29 years old at the start of the US involvement in the war. He was discharged in 1943. Louis Kish was 94 years old when he passed and is buried with his wife Lillian M. who passed away a mere 7 days later. Did she die from a broken heart?
Then, while paying my honors, I discovered someone with the same last name. Could he have been a distant relative? In researching this man, I found numerous men with the exact same name. There is a William H. Rhodes who was born in 1848 and died in 1917. He too, served in the military. There was a WM. H. Rhodes in Company B, 1st PA. INF. I suspect he served in the Civil War, though the dates of his birth and passing were not available. In someways it was comforting to know, that deep in my personal lineage I, too, stepped in to answer a call to serve in my country’s military.
Here is the first Persian Gulf War veteran I found. I wonder if we served in the same areas?
Was the cool air I felt on my ride to the cemetery, my own feeling of pride? Was the breeze that fluttered the flags along the road, the spirts of those coming back to receive the honors we bestowed?
This reminds me of a poem by Major John McCrae.
During the early days of the Second Battle of Ypres a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed on 2 May, 1915 in the gun positions near Ypres. An exploding German artillery shell landed near him. He was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit as a friend of his, the Canadian military doctor and artillery commander, Major John McCrae.
As the brigade doctor, John McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for Alexis because the chaplain had been called away somewhere else on duty that evening. It is believed that later that evening, after the burial, John began the draft for his now famous poem “In Flanders Fields”.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
by John McCrae, May 1915
Those are my memories from that day.
I hope they represent the memories of those who were also there.