Bringing a sense of conclusion to the mystery surrounding a WWI veteran buried in an unmarked grave in Schererville, rifle salutes rang in the air to commemorate a soldier whose memory was lost to the mists of time.
An empty pair of boots and ceremonial firearm sat in the Chapel Lawn Cemetery Saturday afternoon, as several veterans and community members gathered for a memorial service marking the grave of Wesley Mishler of Gary.
“In the tradition of our military, we never knowingly or willfully leave a comrade behind,” American Legion Post 260 past commander Bruce Thorn said at the service. “Nor shall we ever knowingly let a soldier's sacrifice to his country be forgotten.”
After Thorn spoke about Mishler and his service, there was a rifle salute and taps was played on a bugle. To close out the service, individuals each left a flower at Mishler's gravesite.
Thorn said seven American Legion posts came to pay respects, among other military members, veterans and civilians.
Kevin Urbanczyk, first district commander of American Legion Post 100 in Lake Station, said it was a touching scene he won't forget.
“It was a very emotional thing to me to see all of our people in the American Legion come down to honor a fallen soldier,” Urbanczyk said. “It's a beautiful day, you can't ask for more than that. It shows that no matter where you are, as a Legion member, that we're here for each other. It was a very touching atmosphere."
Solving the mystery
Three months prior to the memorial, a woman who lived in Camelot Manor in Portage for 15 years discovered a bronze military grave plaque in her storage shed that had sat in the dark, unnoticed for years.
The woman brought the plaque to the American Legion Post 260 in Portage and asked if the members could find where it belonged, Thorn said.
That's when Post 260 took on the mission of tracking down the story of Mishler. Several people came together to aid in the search, including The Times' Joyce Russell who did ancestry research.
It was revealed upon sifting through military and public documents, that Mishler served in World War I and died in 1960. Mishler was born in 1884 and lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota before living on 15th Street in Gary in the 1950s.
When Thorn and his wife visited Chapel Lawn Cemetery to find Mishler's grave \site, they said they were shocked and saddened to find the grave unmarked.
David Daniels, the cemetery manager, said Chapel Lawn donated a granite stone foundation newly installed on Mishler's grave so the plaque can be attached.
Digging to find Mishler's family, they discovered that his son died at age 88 and his daughter died at age 92. The funeral homes in which their funeral arrangements were made were not able to help locate living family members.
Thorn said by now, Mishler's grandchildren would be in their '70s or '80s if they are living, however he's hopeful perhaps loose ends can be tied.
“We are hoping with any exposure this gets, that someone in the family will read this and contact us about the plaque, so we'll see where it goes from there,” Thorn said. “Also the lady who dropped the plaque off left before we could get her name and we'd like to thank her, she's the key person in this whole darn thing.”