BURTON — The word “God” will appear in the inscription on a monument to be placed at a local military cemetery, thanks to the persistence of a local Knights of Columbus officer.
Neal Roche, faithful navigator of Msgr. Dunigan Assembly 0510, insisted “God” be included in the inscription on the two-foot-tall monument the assembly will unveil Nov. 10 at a 1:30 p.m. public ceremony at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in northern Oakland County.
When Assembly 0510, a fourth-degree K. of C. unit in Burton, submitted its proposed inscription on April 20, it read: “To those who have served, may they find peace with God. And to those who are serving or will serve, may God go with them.”
Later, Roche said the Assembly learned the wording was stalled in an oversight committee — national cemeteries are run by the National Cemetery Administration, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs — because of concerns the word “God” might offend some people or groups.
“The ethics committee is going to have its sub-committees review it before giving an approval, or, as they put it, a possible recommendation as to what should be said,” Roche reported in August.
Then on Thursday, Sept. 5, John Shilling, acting director of Great Lakes Cemetery, telephoned Roche to report that the inscription had been approved as submitted.
“It’s the same process we go through for other proposed inscriptions,” Shilling said. “We just wanted to be sure it was politically correct.”
Final approval was a victory for Assembly 0510, which started the project about three years ago and has conducted fund-raisers to pay for the $3,700 monument.
“It’s for the veterans, not the Knights of Columbus,” Roche said of the monument. “It’s a tribute to all veterans, men and women, and all who served their country. It’s for the vets.”
The monument will be placed on a 42-inch, 550-pound base, along with a dozen other markers in a memorial area honoring veterans whose remains have not been recovered or identified, were buried at sea, donated to science or cremated with their ashes scattered.
Roche said one of the monuments mentions “almighty” but none includes the word “God.” The other markers are sponsored by such groups as the Polish Legion of America, Ukrainian American Veterans, Pearl Harbor Memorial, Military Order of the Purple Heart, a Jewish group and a tribute to POW-MIAs by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 175 of Genesee County.
“The country was founded on the principles and teachings of God,” Roche said when the proposal was stalled. “Those men and women who have served, and are currently serving, are fighting and dying for these principles.”
Roche said Fr. Timothy MacDonald, pastor of Queen of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Jackson and chaplain for the area fourth-degree K. of C. district, will bless the monument at the unveiling, which will conclude with a 21-gun salute and taps by the Marine Corps League 155 Flint Attachment.
The Great Lakes National Cemetery opened in 2005 and has had more than 19,300 burials so far, Shilling said. It has space for 244,000 burials on its 544-acre site in Holly Township. It is open to U.S veterans, their spouses and qualifying unmarried children.