HAMMOND | About 100 region residents gathered Sunday at the tomb of a Hammond veteran who served his country more than a century ago, commemorating the sacrifices of America's bloodiest war.
The ceremony at Hammond's Oak Hill Cemetery — while heavy in gratitude for the dozens of Civil War veterans buried at the 21-acre burial ground — also celebrated the sacrifices of all region veterans, both past and active.
The special Veterans Day ceremony included the dedication of 11 new Civil War veteran headstones installed there in the past 18 months as part of the South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail historical preservation and tourism initiative.
Anna Riggs, a Munster Girl Scout, spoke at the ceremony about her troop's efforts to computerize burial records at the once-troubled cemetery.
Riggs also read off the 11 names of the Civil War veterans whose graves received new headstones.
"I have learned so much about our local history by doing this project," Riggs told the gathering, thanking North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan for getting her group involved.
Mrvan spoke at the cemetery, honoring veterans from all U.S. wars and thanking various volunteer groups that have worked to restore what had once been an unkempt cemetery.
Mrvan's office took control of the cemetery earlier in the year after years of shoddy cemetery conditions, headstones that had been removed from grave sites and dumped in a debris pile, and human bones that were found in dirt berms on the southern edge of the cemetery.
Mrvan gave particular thanks to the all-volunteer Calumet Region Civil War Preservation Project, which secured 10 of the new Civil War markers from the federal government and installed the markers free of charge.
The 10 original headstones were broken and faded to the point of being nearly unreadable.
Laura Campbell, great-great-granddaughter of Centier Bank founder and Civil War Pvt. Henry Schrage, also spoke at Sunday's ceremony.
The preservation project installed a special privately purchased marker for Schrage's Oak Hill grave during the summer.
Campbell, who is the daughter of current Centier Bank President and CEO Michael Schrage, told the gathering her great-great-grandfather was one of Whiting's earliest pioneers who moved to the region from Chicago after the Civil War.
"I know he is looking down on this today and smiling," Cambell said. "I know he is proud."
The ceremony took place at the tomb of another Civil War veteran, Cpl. Charles Lavene, who served in a Michigan regiment and settled in Hammond after the war.
Volunteer Chrissy Terry, a Valparaiso University student from Hammond, spent several hours last summer cleaning, repainting and repairing cracked concrete on the tomb. Terry received special recognition at the ceremony.