Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery
On July 4th, 2009 I visited the National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth in Leavenworth, Kansas. I couldn't think of a better way to spend Independence Day than being on an active United States Military base with the young men and women serving there. I also wanted to visit the National Cemetery to pay my respects to the brave veterans buried there.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember, before visiting, is that Fort Leavenworth is an active US Army base, not a museum piece. Expect a slight delay at the gate to be checked out by security personnel. If you are the person in your party who is driving in, you must produce a valid driving license, valid vehicle registration, and valid vehicle insurance. All others in your vehicle must produce a photo ID. You will need to state the purpose of your visit and open all the vehicle's doors, trunk, and possibly the hood. If further investigation is needed you will be asked to pull off into a separate lot, which happened to me. Make sure you have no firearms with you. You will at best be denied entry. If you get to the gate with one somewhere in your vehicle, tell the guard and follow their commands to the letter. All the gate personnel, both US Army and civilian, were extremely professional and helpful. Every one I spoke to was a shining example of their profession and their country.
The Cemetery was easy to find, as everything is well marked out on the base. There were lots of Military Police out and about and when a speed limit sign says 25mph they don't mean 26mph. Obey the posted limit. The Cemetery was well maintained and laid out well. At the office is a book containing locations of all persons buried there. The book is in alphabetical order. I looked up all the Medal of Honor winners and Indian Wars veterans to make sure I didn't miss any. Since I was visiting on the 4th of July the office was closed. No problem, as the grave locator book, map, and helpful signs are posted in a display outside the office. Take one of the copied maps, left there to be taken, and mark the general location of the graves you looked up in the locator book. There are not many parking spaces available but only one other person was there while I was so it wasn't an issue. A helpful website to view prior to your trip is the Veterans Administration Fort Leavenworth Cemetery page.
I knew prior to my arrival that Lt. Algernon Smith, Captain George Yates, Lt. James Calhoun, and Captain Thomas Custer were all buried here. I did not know that all four of these Little Big Horn casualties were buried next to each other. Captain Custer was the first two time Medal of Honor winner and the brother of General George Armstrong Custer. Lt. Calhoun was the Custer's brother-in-law. There are non-military graves here also. Some are spouses of military personnel buried here. There were also a number of "unknowns" including women, children, and infants. The cemetery has space available for only cremated remains now. They may be able to accommodate casketed remains in the same gravesite of previously interred family members.
I have to tell you, it was indeed special to be here on the 4th of July and I'm glad I made the trip.