Thursday, August 04, 2011

Why I Do This

Final resting place of Elmer Lee Faulker, American Hero
Saint Johnstown Cemetery, Greenwood, Delaware

Some have questioned why I roam cemeteries and take photos of gravestones.  I have wondered myself.

The one thing I know is that I always experience a sense of peace and tranquility when I am in a cemetery. That perhaps sounds morbid to some and triggers smart assed wisecracks in others. Those uninformed and ignorant remarks roll off of my like water off of a duck's back.  I know what I know and the older I get the less I care what others think of me or what I do that brings me a sense of peace.

My Find a posting for PFC Elmer Lee Faulker

A few years ago a website called Find a took off.  This website was originally started to find graves of the famous and infamous.  However, it quickly became a very popular website for recording all graves, famous and non-famous.  It has also become a very valuable tool for genealogy research.

Ironically the website was founded by a Tipton (of which I am one).  His name is Jim Tipton.  Another irony, I didn't know about the website until my cousin Tim Tipton told me about it during our mutual Tipton family genealogy research.  And here I am, yet another Tipton with this never ending interest in cemeteries and those who are in them.

Originally I went to Find a Grave to find information about my family genealogy.  However, I soon discovered that there are all kinds of stories in the various cemeteries that I have visited.  One only has to look at the dates of birth and death to understand what happened in these families.  Sometimes I come across a grave with a small headstone which states the same date of birth and death.  This is obviously of a child who died at birth.  So sad.  My brother has a son who died at birth.  I haven't "visited" that grave.  I have a very good friend who has several children who died at birth or shortly thereafter.  So sad.

The last couple of days I've been recording information that I've gathered over the last few years of various cemeteries I've visited.  I've taken hundreds of photos but haven't posted them.  I'm trying to post them all now because the past few months other Find a Grave members in this area of southern Delaware are posting their photos.  I guess I'm a little selfish because I want to post my photos first.  To me this is a way of honoring those who passed on.  I want to feel like I've contributed, made a difference, small as it may be.

I haven't done much else in my life that will be remembered after I'm gone but I would like to do this.  One of the hazards of posting all this information and photos is that every now and then one hits me very hard.  That happened this morning while I was updating my Find a Grave account.

I posted a photo of a grave of a young man who died in Vietnam.  He was only 20 years old.  Another senseless, wasted death of a War of Choice that this country should never have been in.  Seeing all the flowers and the colorful headstone of this young man's final resting place made me so aware of how much of a loss this family had when they lost their son and husband.  He never had a chance.

I was born a month before this country entered into World War II.  My whole life has been punctuated by wars this county has been in.  First there was World War II.  At least that war was justified.  Then there was the Korean War.  I remember as a teenager, hoping that war would end before I was of draft age.   Then there was the Viet Nam war.  I was lucky because I joined the Army in January of 1960 and left in January of 1963.  I would have made a career out of the Army (I liked it, believe it or not) if I wasn't gay but back in those days if they found out you were gay they kicked you out.  I didn't want to take that chance.  As it turned out it was a good thing I got out.  Right before my departure date I was asked to reenlist.  They promised me a big bonus ($1,300 which was a lot in those days) and a chance to got to this exotic country, Viet Nam.  I declined.  This was just as Viet Nam was heating up.  If I wasn't gay I would have stayed in and by now I probably would be in a grave myself with someone else taking a picture of another young man's life given in vain.

This country loves wars.  Now we're in three of them.  Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.  There are probably more wars our government and their corporate owners are planning as I write this blog.

I didn't intend for this blog posting to be an anti-war screed but you know me, I go with where my thinking takes me.  You know, the old "freewill."  That is one thing I appreciate about this country, we do have some freedom of speech.  Not always but we have more than most countries.

To get back to the original intent of this blog posting, the point I wanted to make was after I posted the picture of this young man's grave a wave of heavy sadness swept over me.  I choked up.  Tears came to my eyes.  I don't even know this young man but just looking at his final resting place caused such sadness within me because it brought to fore again at how wasteful our government is.  They seem to be driven by corporate interests which demand wars and more wars to feed the corporate coffers.  And the result is the photo you see, a young man's life wasted.  A family still torn by grief over their loss.  So sad.

The least I can do is to make sure this young man's sacrifice is not forgotten.  This is one of the reasons I record grave sites and photos to Find a

I record all the graves of folks who are no longer with us.  No one should be forgotten.  That is why we have cemeteries.  For the living to remember those who have gone.  Now with modern technology and the Internet, everyone who has a computer can visit a cemetery.  I am proud to be part of that effort.

I'm tempted to apologize for mixing my anti-war screed in this posting but I'm not going to.  I make no apologies for being against Wars of Choice.


  1. I'm sure, recording this info, is appreciated by their relatives.

    I read yesterday's comments and I just wanted to add that I keep the memory of my lost relatives in my heart. And by telling my children all about them, is my way of honoring them. To each his own, right?

  2. Mark,

    I prefer tangible memories that the physical presence of the final resting places provide as do many others. One of my fondest memories of my Mother was the joy she got when I would take a day and take her to the various cemeteries to visit her family. That was always a special treat for her and a time to e together. That is one memory that I will never forget and when I'm gone there will be the photos of us visiting those graves. I won't be around to verbally share those memories but my photos will.

  3. I've always found cemeteries interesting. I hope one day they'll place barcodes or those new square things) on the headstones and then we could scan it and get the person's history.

  4. there is a billboard for the marines here in los angeles that says "be committed to something greater than yourself". that phrase me, since it infers that potentially giving your life for a government's agenda is greater than living it for yourself. the wars of today are financially motivated, as we all know. it is sad to lose young men and women for a country's greed and oil interests. like they say, if they drafted older white men into the service there would be no more war. like you, i often wonder about people who have lived and are no longer living. it is a fascinating way to think. i do not begrudge you your hobby, and if anything, it is life-affirming, not morose at all.

  5. I wish more people would be as sweet and caring as you Ron. Wars are "big business".

  6. I was born two year after war so I know nothing about it but I visited the War Remnant Museum in my city and I've read some first pages of Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh, the war was so horrible.
    Vietnam is heating up now too Ron. I'm sweating when typing my comment LOL.

  7. When I was in fourth grade we took a field trip to the San Fernando Mission her in "The Valley". After roaming around the cementary some friends and I sat down on circly-bench thing around a tree for a rest. Some silly 4th grade boys scared the bejeesus out of us when they screamed and told us we were sitting on a gravesite. Since then I'm not so good in cemeteries. And just recently I was at a funeral where we had walk over all the grave stones embedded flat in the ground (as we are not allowed to have the head stones that stand upright)and it kind of creeped me out that there were people's names on them who hadn't actually died yet, but would be sharing the plot with a loved one who had. I'm not so fond of being in cemeteries, but I do agree they are quite interesting and informative.

  8. Oh Pumpkin, I have alway loved cemeteries. The only thing I'm afraid of is the current version of the Republican Party. Now they creep me out!

  9. Thank you Nadege. You are very kind.

  10. Tai,

    When my three year term for service was almost up in the Army I was offered a "chance" to go to Vietnam. I declined on advice of some of my friends that came back from the war. I am glad I declined.


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