Nestled on a small tract of land not far from the Verdigris River west of Wagoner lies a small tract of land once occupied by the Sandtown Baptist Church.
Although the church no longer exists, the hallowed grounds of the Sandtown Cemetery remain a place where families come to remember their loved ones.
On Tuesday, Nov. 19, a small crowd gathered to dedicate a memorial plaque that honors the 27 veterans who are buried in the cemetery. Two fought in the Spanish/American War. Five served during World War I and 16 served during World War II.
One of the veterans served in the Korean War and two served during the Vietnam War. Another one served in the U.S. Armed Forces stateside.
“We are here to honor and show respect for the soldiers who served in our military during a time of need,” said program emcee Larry Abernathy. “There are 27 veterans buried here that we know of listed on county records, but I am sure there are some buried here without any records.”
“The size of this plaque pales in comparison to the sacrifice made by these soldiers,” Abernathy continued. “However, the precision and detail are commensurate with what we expect from these soldiers.”
The bronze plaque purchased by anonymous donors reads, “In honor of all
United States veterans that served in war and peace time buried at Sandtown Cemetery.”
As it was unveiled, a host of American flags waved briskly in the Oklahoma wind, providing the perfect patriotic background as those buried there were honored.
Wagoner County District 2 Commissioner Chris Edwards was one of several dignitaries who spoke. He said long before he became a veteran himself, veterans have always had a special place in his heart.
“You wonder what life was like for these people and the sacrifices they made — not only sacrifice, but those of their families,” Edwards said. “I hope and pray that the generations that follow us will also recognize the sacrifice these men and women have made.”
Wagoner Mayor Albert Jones called himself simply a grateful American who wishes he could reach out and thank each of the veterans buried in Sandtown Cemetery and those in attendance.
“Thank you — two words and eight letters — we say them all the time,” Jones said. “Where is the power and emotion of thank you? When they earn their stripes of gratitude, words of appreciation and thankfulness.”
Rolling Thunder member Stephen Gayles said it was an honor and privilege to be there Tuesday to honor the men who served their country to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today.
“I learned growing up that society has been very segregated, but within the military, there is no segregation. I realize and appreciate that regardless of the color of your skin, you still bleed red when shot,” Gayles said. “This unifies us as a brotherhood that serves and is willing to go defend the freedoms of our neighbors, our children and our wives — those who have gone before us and will go after us. I am thankful for these men who rest in this cemetery.”
Jerry Love, who lives near the cemetery and works to maintain it, said it brought him joy to see those who came out for Tuesday’s occasion.
“I was one of the fortunate ones who made it home from the Vietnam War,” Love said. “When I look at the 58,000 names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, I personally knew 32 of them. Some died right beside me with me looking at them. I feel blessed and I am very thankful to be here.”
“From the bottom of my heart, I thank you and appreciate everyone for coming out,” he continued. “This dedication means the world to me as my wife has family buried in this cemetery.”
Love extended special thanks to Vic Owens and Rick Henson for their help with the cemetery as well.
Others who participated in the Nov. 19 ceremony were representatives of the Disabled American Veterans, Wagoner Masonic Lodge and Wagoner Elks Lodge.