Civil War veterans, Medal of Honor recipients, remembered with special wreath ceremony at Greenwood Cemetery

YORK – On a beautiful, quiet May night, right before Memorial Day weekend, dozens of York residents gathered to remember two Civil War veterans – who are buried at Greenwood Cemetery – for their heroic efforts which were earlier recognized with prestigious Medals of Honor.

Vicki Ozenbaugh, who was the Nebraska Auxiliary president last year, explained how this is part of her prioritized project – to place a wreath at the graves of all 33 veterans buried in Nebraska who had been given the Medal of Honor by the president of the United States, recognizing their bravery and service.

She made her way to York County, to place her eighth and ninth wreaths, as she was realized two such recipients are buried in one cemetery — York’s Greenwood.

“This is my first time, doing two in one cemetery,” Ozenbaugh said, as members of the local Legion, VFW, VFW Auxiliary, Legion Auxiliary and Honor Guard assembled for the event.

It was a fitting time, seeing how much of the beautiful cemetery has already been decorated for Memorial Day, with flags flying at each veteran grave. The weather was beautiful and it was an important moment to remember the history of those buried there, for the sacrifices they made so long ago.

Statistics show, in Nebraska, there were 15 recipients from the Civil War, eight from the Indian Wars, two from the War With Spain, four from World War II, one from the Korean Conflict and three from the Vietnam War.

Marcia Hoover, from the auxiliary of the Legion Unit #19, said the opening prayer, noting “these are worthy men who gave their best to serve and protect our country, our freedom, our heritage. We are proud of them, we honor them and we ask the Lord to continue to bless our country.”

Ozenbaugh explained how the Medal Of Honor is “the highest military honor in the United States, to recognize those who distinguished themselves by acts of valor. This is bestowed by the presidents of the United States – it’s also more well known today as the Congressional Medal of Honor.”

To receive a Medal of Honor such as this requires testimony from witnesses, as to the recipient’s bravery, actions, commitment.

“For 160 years, the meaning behind The Medal has never been tarnished,” Ozenbaugh said. “Over the course of all those years, Nebraska has had 73 awarded, 33 are buried in our state.”

The Legion’s Honor Guard and attendees moved to the grave of Private James P. Miller, who was born April 29, 1834, and died on July 2, 1918. Ozenbaugh explained how he had served in the Civil War, with his home state being Iowa. He received the Medal of Honor in 1865 for his actions in April of that year. She said he was noted for his bravery and management, as he demonstrated “extraordinary heroism” while on the USS Marblehead.

She also noted how Miller later homesteaded in York County, where he made a life for himself and his family. “He was very involved in his community – he later became the York County Sheriff and he served as a state senator for Nebraska. He was 84 years old when he passed away.”

She placed the wreath on his grave, which was followed by a gun salute and the playing of Taps.

Then the group moved to the east to honor the memory of Private John Shapland, also a member of the U.S. Army during the Civil War.

Ozenbaugh said Shapland was honored with The Medal 34 years after his act of valor. He was born in England on March 4, 1882; he moved to the United States and served in the 104th Illinois Infantry. He died on Feb. 3, 1923. She said his presidential citation of honor was presented to him for his “extraordinary heroism” at a Civil War battle at Elk River, Tennessee.

Following the presentation of the wreath at Private Shapland’s grave, the same protocol was followed with a full gun salute and the playing of Taps.

Hoover provided the closing prayer, saying, “We thank all those who met here today to remember our brave and heroic dead. May their patriotism inspire us. In their memory, we stand in silence.”

The silence was solemn, as those in attendance honored these brave men – even though no one had never met them, known them, but still honor and remember them. Hence, the importance of Ozenbaugh’s efforts, as she moves around the state to bring recognition to those who have earned the highest honor the country bestows.


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