Memorial Day Observed at NMCP Cemetery

Story Number: NNS100531-10Release Date: 5/31/2010 9:50:00 PM
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By Rebecca A. Perron, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth Public Affairs

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- Naval Medical Center Portsmouth held its 24th annual Memorial Day observance May 31 in the historic Captain Theodore H. Conaway Memorial Naval Cemetery, where more than 850 Soldiers, Sailors and Marines are interred.

A light breeze fluttered the flags that Boy Scouts had placed at each grave site, identifying the home nation of the person laid to rest.

The ceremony was conducted and co-sponsored by the Tidewater Area Council of the Fleet Reserve Association and Ladies Auxiliary.

Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks, NMCP commander, welcomed the guests to the ceremony and officially unveiled a new grave marker for a Medal of Honor recipient. In late 2009, the Medal of Honor Society determined that Seaman Hendrick Sharp, who died in 1892, had received the MOH for his participation in the Battle of Mobile Bay on board USS Richmond in 1864. The MOHS commissioned a new grave marker that was installed recently to recognize Sharp for his actions.

Stocks read from Sharp's MOH certificate, saying that he "fought his gun with skill and courage throughout a furious two-hour battle which resulted in the surrender of the rebel ram Tennessee and in the damaging and destruction of the batteries at Fort Morgan." Not much else is known about Sharp, other than that he was born in Spain in 1815, claimed New York as his home and died in 1892.

In addition to the four known MOH recipients, the MOHS believes that as many as 13 others buried in the cemetery received the award, and the society is searching naval records to confirm.

The ceremony's featured speaker was Capt. Sean Mahoney, Incident Management branch chief for the Coast Guard's 5th District. Mahoney recognized the sacrifice of service members across the generations who paid the ultimate price and told the stories of three Coast Guard members killed in action during three different wars.

"When I speak about these three heroes," Mahoney said, "I hope you will reflect on all of the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen from all of the services who didn't make it home."

Mahoney told about the heroic actions of Petty Officer Douglas Munro, who served as a landing craft operator on Guadalcanal during World War II, helicopter pilot Lt. Jack Rittichier, who flew rescue missions in Vietnam, and Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal, who served with one of the Coast Guard's Tactical Law Enforcement Teams in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As he concluded his remarks, Mahoney said, "The nature of the threats to liberty and our nation have changed throughout our history, but our service members across the generations have always risen to the challenge of defending our nation."

At the end of the ceremony, William and Carolyn Combs of the Fleet Reserve Association and the Ladies Auxiliary placed a wreath on the cairn surmounted by a stone pillar and urn honoring the men lost during the Hampton Roads' battle between USS Cumberland, USS Congress and the ironclad CSS Virginia's maiden voyage.

The cemetery is the final resting place of those who served bravely during our nation's major conflicts and wars, including more than 850 fallen Soldiers, Sailors and Marines from seven countries, as well as Union and Confederate service members. Also laid to rest are victims of the yellow fever epidemic that swept Hampton Roads in 1855.

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