McCain, who passed August 25 of this year, was laid to rest on September 2 in this idyllic cemetery. Fittingly, his memorial is simple, tasteful and in keeping with the mood of the cemetery itself.
The staff at Martin Oaks Cemetery and Crematory is mindful of the statement a grave makes about its occupant — we frequently deal with families who struggle over what kind of marker they wish to place over their loved one.
There is a sense that the memory of someone can be summed up by their headstone; the inscription on the marker also is part of that eternal presence.
Our cemetery dates back to the civil war and we attempt to maintain the historical ambiance as we help families make these choices.
In McCain’s case, the decision to be interred in the academy cemetery seemed most appropriate to us. Like him or not, disagree with him or not, McCain is justly remembered for his service to the country during the Vietnam conflict. Those images of him from that time period, and the images of the “Hanoi Hilton” provide a backdrop, context if you will, for his final disposition.
The Naval Academy Cemetery, which is on a peninsula overlooking College Creek and the Severn River, is a picturesque location which has a tranquil atmosphere. It dates back to the 1860’s: the design of the markers reflect changing tastes of the times, rendering a vintage, reflective cast over the land. The term “being at rest” comes to mind.
What also comes to mind is the enormous sacrifices that those entombed here have made. Some well-known, some distinguished only by their quiet presence.
There are some quite remarkable monuments: for example, the Jeannette Arctic Expedition is commemorated by a substantial stone structure which features an icy cross that reminds one of the frozen conditions in which the servicemen perished.
Another notable is the Mexican War plaque which bears Spanish writing saluting the deaths of those in the 1847 Siege of Veracruz.
Union commander William Cushing’s monument is draped and carries a sword that commemorates the sinking of a confederate battleship.
The memories of these heroes will live forever in this historic setting.
We believe that those who served the country deserve appropriate final disposition — and we applaud the National Cemetery Administration for the manner in which they operate more than 136 cemeteries. Some four million of our veterans are under their care — the respectful way in which the grounds are maintained and the moving services which are conducted indicate how seriously they take their mission statement. “The NCA honors veterans and their families with resting places in national shrines…”
Having visited a host the NCA cemeteries across the country, we can vouch for the consistency of the standards they have set. Many contain the elements that the late naturalist John Muir once cataloged as ingredients for a peaceful final destination — he wrote about living, rippling waters, the grandeur of stately trees, the lush beauty of natural light favoring the surroundings… he said that such a place is a true abode for life, a calm resting spot for those who have passed. We have not encountered an NCA cemetery that does not hit that mark.
Such an eternal tribute is the least we who survive should offer to those who make our daily lives possible.
John McCain was one of those people. Politics aside, he served us well.
On a closing note, we were happy for the McCain family that John was, according to media accounts, part of the planning of his funeral services, his burial location, and the entire lying-in-state procedures. We know from experience the closure these activities provide for both the loved one as well as the loved one’s family.