A Lesson in the Graveyard

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Cemetery administrator Kurt Roder tells of a singular experience that helped him understand the importance of his job.


And now two stories from veterans. One teaches an English class where he has his students write about their relationship with the military. More on him in a moment. First, to Kurt Rotar, who got a job at a graveyard after he got out of the service.

Mr. KURT ROTAR (Army Veteran): I was in the military. I was in Vietnam. I'm an Army veteran. I started in the National Cemetery Administration back in 1984 at the Wood National Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

CHADWICK: One day, Kurt Rotar had a singular experience that changed the way he felt about his work.

Mr. ROTAR: I started out in the field; I was a groundskeeper. And I was there for about three months, and we had to do the internment of an infant child of a veteran. And I had a young son about the same age, and that's when it really hit home as to what my responsibilities were in working at the cemetery. And I carry that with me today, and I try to portray that to the staff, I try and portray it to the families. We have to treat each and every service member that comes in here with that same type of dignity, with that same type of honor as if it was one of our own.

CHADWICK: Kurt Rotar is an administrator of the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, Massachusetts. And thanks to producer Laura Bellows and Atlantic Public Media.

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