Rededication ceremony for Tomb of the Unknown Soldier draws hundreds

Several hundred community members streamed into the Ivy Green Cemetery this past weekend for a rededication ceremony of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Several hundred community members streamed into the Ivy Green Cemetery this past weekend for a rededication ceremony of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Bremerton is a replica of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Bremerton’s replica is one of only three such memorials in the United States. And for those who hadn’t been to the cemetery in a while, the tomb and its surroundings would be nearly unrecognizable.

Back in August, Bremerton resident Todd Best spearheaded a massive cleanup of the cemetery that involved hundreds of volunteers and he’s been working ever since to make the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier a worthy memorial to those that have served this country and given the ultimate sacrifice.

“We can’t forget those who have given us the freedom we sometimes take for granted,” Best said. “They’re laid to rest now, but we have to give them the respect they so richly deserve.”

Best said he heard about the dilapidated condition of the cemetery from a friend and went to see things for himself.

“I was mad,” Best said. “I spent all day pulling weeds, unearthing grave markers of veterans and I absolutely started crying. And I’m not an emotional guy. I realized I had not even made a dent and said this is going to take a lot more people than just me. I was sad and ultimately mad, so I took my anger and ultimately turned it into motivation.”

Best has been working non-stop ever since with a lot of help from area businesses and volunteers. In all, about $40,000 worth of materials have been donated and the amount of volunteer labor would easily take the “price tag” into six digits.

“It’s not about me,” Best insists. “It’s about all of us. We all got this done together. I kept everything in motion and held it together, that’s all I did. I feel guilty taking credit sometimes over anyone else.”

Best says that was especially true at the August 4 cleanup, a day he says he will never forget, that featured more than 200 volunteers.

“This community’s amazing,” he said. “If you put a call to action out in this community, and people respect you, the people will come out and they will come out in force. If I could put one word on it, we unified the community that day. Everybody was one, it was like one big family. If we could have a day like that everyday in Bremerton, we’d have the best city in the United States.”

The effort to make the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier a world-class memorial involved a lot more than just pulling weeds and laying down new sod. A new concrete walkway to and around the tomb, which was treated to look more like granite, is in the shape of a ribbon. A raised, semi-circular concrete seating area, featuring the phrase “In Honor of the Unknown,” surrounds the backside of the tomb to allow for quiet contemplation. And new vegetation was installed to better screen a fence and homes adjacent to the cemetery. The updated memorial was designed by Joshua Fisher.

Best said he is still working to secure seven commercial-grade flag poles, one for each of the armed services and a flag recognizing prisoners of war and missing in action. The tallest pole will fly the colors. Special lighting will also illuminate the flags at night.

Best said that the rededication ceremony for the tomb was another emotional day.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” he said. “It was really neat to see the whole community, from all walks of life, come together for a special day. It’s really important to me because this community has such a rich Navy heritage to be proud of.”

The cemetery is the final resting place of many veterans and veterans memorials. Among the various memorials is one dedicated to 61 veterans killed during an attack on the U.S.S. Saratoga on Feb. 21, 1945, and a memorial for veterans of the Spanish American War and the grave of John H. Nibbe, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service during the Civil War.