116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for mourning the U.S. military personnel who have died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. It is observed by placing flowers and American flags on graves of military personnel. Many people visit cemeteries on this day to honor and mourn those who died while serving our country. Many volunteers and cemetery staff place an American flag on graves of military personnel in national cemeteries.
However, at Czech National Cemetery there were only a few flags placed on graves. In fact, some people couldn’t even find the markers to their loved ones due to the incredibly long grass and disarray this cemetery is in. There are still remnants of the derecho storm from August 2020, piles of garbage align the roads and old winter decorations are piled up and haven’t been removed. Someone told me they had to use scissors to trim the grass around their husband’s monument! Both sets of my grandparents and all my relatives are buried there, but unfortunately I’m unable to find all of their markers due to the lack of mowing and maintenance
The condition of this national cemetery is just a disgrace and a horrific injustice to those who rest there. Where are the board members and new president, what are they doing about any of this? Why isn’t there anyone to oversee daily maintenance? They continue to raise costs of grave sites and spaces in the mausoleum, where is the money going? Who is managing the financials? What about those who have paid for special and perpetual care for their loved ones’ gravesites?
My father was the sexton of that cemetery for 40 years, just as his father was the sexton before him. During that time there was pride in keeping all those acres pristine, especially for each Memorial Day. As a little girl I remember memorial observances on that day, there were speeches, men in suits, women with corsages, 21-gun salutes and a respect to those who died saving our country. Comparing the condition of Czech National Cemetery to Cedar Memorial, Linwood and any other cemetery within the area Czech National was the absolute worst. Since the passing of the most recent sexton in early 2021, it seems this cemetery, where all of those veterans and our loved ones are buried, has been left alone – what an unfortunate, disappointing and sad legacy for the Czech National Cemetery that was once a proud landmark of eastern Iowa.
Kathy Stejskal O’Neil lives in Waconia, Minn.