SALT LAKE CITY - A small American Flag waves in the light breeze through the Fort Douglas cemetery hidden in the back corner of downtown Salt Lake City. Rows of white headstones line from one end of the black iron fence to the other. The cemetery is the resting place for over 1,300 Prisoners of War, service members who served at Fort Steven A. Douglas and their family members.
An American Flag dances in the breeze in the Fort Douglas cemetery in Salt Lake City, June 12, 2014. Locals are encouraged to visit the four acres of land dedicated to fallen service members, their families and prisoners of war. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. James Harvie)
“It is peaceful, it is well taken care of, it is respected by the people who use it, it's very important not only to the military community, but it is important to the the community at large here in the Salt Lake valley,” said Su Richards, the research archivist at the Fort Douglas Military Museum. “It's a small cemetery, limited occupancy, but it is one that is well visited and well taken care of, and one that if you are in Salt Lake, it is a place to come visit.”
The first recorded burial in the Fort Douglas cemetery was in the winter of 1862 and it was then actively used throughout the Civil War and both World Wars. Although it is a closed cemetery today, the four acres of land is still maintained and preserved for visitors.
“The significance of the cemetery is it is a sacred place for soldiers and their families who have passed away while they were stationed here or if they have lived here before and want to come back to be buried,” Richards said.
The community is welcome to visit the cemetery, located on the intersection of Tabby Lane and Chipeta Way. The museum hosts an interactive experience with history where role-players portray local heroes and answer questions about members buried there. The event is an opportunity for children to practice cemetery behavior and reverence the deceased. Children are given a list of several graves they can locate throughout the grounds, introducing them to the monuments and notable burials.
Other events include a Memorial Day march from Fort Douglas to the cemetery, as well as a European Veterans Day observance ceremony. Richards hopes that events like these will promote the idea that cemeteries are not scary, but rather a place of reverence and respect for those who passed before us.
Visitors do not need to wait for a special event to see this final resting place for so many local heroes, as families and people from the community can often be seen strolling the peaceful grounds or even hosting a family picnic. On a summer day, birds fly from one headstone to another and cicadas buzz from the tree tops making this hidden historical gem a perfect place for a little quiet time with the family.
Additional information about events can be found at the Fort Douglas Military Museum site.
By U.S. Army Spc. Kayla Benson
Provided through DVIDS
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