Remembering the fallen: Gulf Cemetery to offer community-wide Memorial Day service

Chick Huettel | Advertorial Special to The Sun
Activities in years’ past included a prayer, a singing of the National Anthem, a reading of deceased veterans' names, and a playing of Taps. Vernon Bishop moderates the proceedings and American flags were placed on each veteran's grave.

Gulf Cemetery will be holding its annual Memorial Day services on Monday, May 27, beginning at 10 a.m. The ceremony takes place at the historical grounds located on County Road 393, which is located north of Gulf Place at Scenic Highway 30A.

The event will honor those interred men and women who were active in the U.S. military and this will be the largest to date. The Master of Ceremonies will be Vernon Bishop, a lifetime native of south Walton County who recently turned 90. The opening ceremonies will begin with Ms. April Bruner singing patriotic songs, followed by "Taps" played by James McDowell, brass band captain at South Walton High School.

Also, various presentations will be made by people who are noted in the county, and other residents of the community.  There will also be the traditional lowering and raising of the flag. Participants will also be invited to place small flags on the burial sites of those who served our country.

The cemetery is non-profit, is completely staffed by volunteers and has a board of directors which oversees the day-to-day operations. While Gulf Cemetery closes in on its 100-year celebration (founded in 1914), the cemetery is still a full interment facility with standard burial plots and ash placement garden.

It is basically the pioneer burial grounds for the first settlers who came to Santa Rosa Beach. Chosen for the high rolling hills and overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, it covers 40 acres in which perhaps only one-third is in use. The remainder is in reserve for future burials.

Gulf Cemetery is one of the last remaining Gulf Coast sites that lay near the azure blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The cost for coastal cemeteries is no longer feasible for communities and most new locations are well inland. The tranquility of the sea breeze and lofty pines complete the picture. The prices for the sites are well in line with normal cemeteries and are often less expensive than other cemetery locations in Walton and various counties.

The cemetery is deeply dedicated to those who were part of our military. Often sounds of firing salutes by honor guards are heard as formally dressed uniformed men attend a deceased soldier’s last rites. Flags are draped over the coffins as ceremonies begin and when they end, the Stars and Stripes are presented to a family member. Many monuments throughout the cemetery note an individual’s dedication to our country.

The rich and superb Gulf Cemetery tradition continues and you can be a part of it on Memorial Day. Loving family members who lay there will be remembered, and those who served will be honored.

So bring your lawn chair, (bottled water will be provided), and take part in one the most important days of our nation.