Cemetery's expansion offers more veterans final rest - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Cemetery's expansion offers more veterans final rest

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Gusts and a steady rain add chill to the solace; the skies are as stark as the markers.

But Bernard Cheatham's widow Nona would see to it that his grave bore flowers; for the fifth time since his passing six and a half months ago.

"It's not so much peace," Nona Cheatham says.  "But it makes me feel better, knowing he's resting at peace."

Capt. Cheatham's cremains are beneath Marker 115, in a special section of the Chattanooga National Cemetery.

He served in the Air Force for three years, as the Korean Conflict gave way to Vietnam. He and Nona moved to Chattanooga after he received his Electrical Engineering degree from Louisiana State University.  He would work for the Tennessee Valley Authority, she for the Chamber of Commerce.

That was fifty years ago.

"We would have had to bury him in Grenada, Mississippi," she says. "But I live here, and he was in the service. So we decided, this is where he was gonna be."

Joining an estimated 44,000 veterans, spouses and children from the Civil War to Gulf War II. So many, in fact, that the Cemetery might have been filled by 2015.  

But more $4 million reinvested to create space, will allow for more than 6,000 grave sites; room enough to last until 2046. Once covered, the new crypts are less likely to disturb graves adjoining as they are re-opened.

The Cemetery has lost more than 150 trees the past five years, according to Admiral Noah Long (USNR-Retired), former Chairman of the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council.

"Age and weather. Last April's tornadoes really did a number," he says. "We're replacing more than 80 on December 8. Oaks, poplars, more than a dozen species."

Veteran's Day roots in Armistice Day, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, marking the end of World War I.

November 11 would fall on Sunday this year; picture-perfect weather to draw more than 300 to the hallowed ground.

Nona Cheatham would have joined them, had she realized. After all, she would have been among family.

"We had no children, we have no family here," she says. "He decided this is where he wanted to be, so I'll probably be here too."

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