Best Cemetery - 2005
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery
To call one cemetery "best" risks glibness. How to rank such solemn grounds? Stand, though, at the easternmost summit of hilly Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery any time between dawn and dusk, and you will be hard-pressed to find the experience anything but incomparable. There, with your back to a placid, verdant stretch of the Mississippi, you see rolling out below you green fields with thousands upon thousands of identical headstones, modest and white, many so old that their inscriptions can no longer be read, only felt underneath your fingers. In fact, in the 178 years since the first burial at Jefferson Barracks, more than 154,000 soldiers and their relatives have been interred here, those who died in combat and those who lived for decades after they served, as well as the remains of some 3,250 unknown soldiers, markers for soldiers who were lost at sea or whose remains were never recovered, and even five German and two Italian prisoners of war. Of course, at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, such distinctions as prisoners of war are moot. Each grave -- even those shared by multiple unknown soldiers -- is given its proper space, well documented by the cemetery office and well maintained by the cemetery staff. Is it best? Let's say it's the best we can do, to honor these men and women with the respect they deserve.