Out for a drive earlier this week I stopped by the Stage Pond Cemetery on Stage Coach Trail for some peace and reflection.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that my deep interest in Citrus County extends to cemeteries. The county’s history is buried along with names of the county’s pioneers and others who put their stake in Citrus County at some point decades ago and called it home.
Stage Pond, in the general area of Lecanto and Floral City, is one of the county’s oldest cemeteries and was the first one I visited after arriving in Citrus County three decades ago.
Strolling the grounds, I noticed that someone had already placed American flags on the graves of military veterans in anticipation of Memorial Day.
As I looked at the names, I was suddenly struck by the simplicity of the military gravestone. Name, branch of service, military conflict, followed by birth and death dates.
Yet each name carries with it a story of personal sacrifice. I don’t need to know the details; their willingness to serve says it all.
I thought of those young men leaving Citrus County for foreign lands, while parents, loved ones and neighbors waited anxiously for their safe return.
The sacrifice of the men and women in the military — honestly, I can’t even grasp it sometimes. And when it’s Memorial Day, I want to keep in my heart all those who died on the field of battle.
I walked slowly through the cemetery and wrote down the names. Most had died long after their military service concluded. They served side-by-side with those who didn't make it home.
I never want to forget Memorial Day honors people, our friends and loved ones who sought sacrifice over safety. Here are some of the names of these heroes buried at Stage Pond:
— Owen Leroy Sparkman, born in 1899 and served in World War I.
— Clyde S. King and Roy L King, both served in World War II.
— Hardy L. Campbell was a private in the U.S. Army. Born in 1894, he served in the first World War.
— Andrew Perry Clark, U.S. Navy, World War II; Gilbert Perry, U.S. Navy, World War II.
— Jim Johnson’s tombstone reads simply:
—John Johnson was a private in the U.S. Army, serving in World War II. His gravesite is right next to Jim’s.
— Gerald O. Rogers, PVT 133, 34 INF DIV, World War II PH.
— Alexander W. Rogers’ grave was similar to Jim Johnson’s:
“Alexander W. Rogers
—Warren J. Garrett, U.S. Army, World War II.
— Herbert C. Beasley, U.S. Air Force, World War II.
— Gary A. Graff served with the U.S. Army in Korea.
— William B. Harrell, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, World War II.
— Glenn E. Lovett, U.S. Navy, Korea and Vietnam.
Have a safe and blessed Memorial Day weekend, friends.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.