NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Mary Kemper of Lexington going to spend a little more time than she might usually take while visiting with relatives at Camp Nelson National Cemetery on Thursday.
“Yes, it’s his birthday. My husband’s birthday, November 11th,” she said of her late husband, James.
James, a Korean War veteran, passed away last year. In addition to James, Camp Nelson is the final resting place for her two brothers and a brother-in-law who all served in various military branches. Veteran’s Day is a holiday that holds a special meaning for Mary.
“Because of the ones I lost and the important part they played in our freedom,” she said before Thursday morning’s ceremony to honor the veterans.
Mary talked about how the freedom we have isn’t free and that James would’ve been disappointed in much of what’s transpired over the last 20 months, but that he’d be glad that we appear to be finding our way through to the end.
For Brett Hightower, Veterans Day is every bit as significant, but for different reasons. He was wounded during a shoot-out with Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2008. A bullet bounced off his weapon and into his jaw and neck. He had to be airlifted off the battlefield and multiple surgeries, and a stay at Walter Reed military hospital ensued. He almost didn’t make it out of there alive. On Thursday, he brought his wife and his two youngest children from western Kentucky for the ceremony.
“They go to a lot of military events with me, and I just want them to understand - because we all forget – what our military does each and every day for us,” the retired Master Sergeant said.
The ceremony included the traditional cannon salute, the signing of the National Anthem, and many other tributes to veterans, along with a big announcement from the cemetery and Jessamine County officials.
Because the grounds are becoming rather full, the county has offered additional land. Camp Nelson will expand its facility so that any future Kentuckian who made the ultimate sacrifice can choose this sacred ground for their final resting place.
“For me, we’re standing on the shoulders of those who came before us,” Master Sergeant Hightower said. “Whether they want to appreciate the military or not, that’s their right, and that’s what we’ve gone and fought for,” he continued.
That’s why we were here today.