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Worthy of remembrance

Civil War veterans recognized

Sgt. Tony Pasillas and Sgt. Mark Hagedorn, Sons of Union Veterans, pause for a moment before the headstone dedication of three Union soldiers. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Three "boys in blue" were remembered last Saturday afternoon during an hour-long Union Civil War Veterans' Headstone Dedication Ceremony at the Western State Hospital Cemetery in Lakewood's Fort Steilacoom Park.

"These men answered the call to serve their nation," James Dimond, a research historian with the Department of Columbia, Sons of Union Veterans, told about 45 interested individuals.

"These boys in blue - Sgt. Oliver Bean, 5th Wisconsin Infantry; Pvt. Thomas Blanchard, 4th New York Heavy Artillery; and Sgt. Charles Cooley, 49th Ohio Infantry - must be remembered."

All three saw considerable action during the Civil War, and Blanchard and Cooley were also prisoners of war.

In time, all three men came to Western State Hospital.

The Gov. Isaac Stevens Camp No.1, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), supported by Company B, 71st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Sons of Veterans Reserve; Company C, 4th U.S. Infantry; and the Grave Concerns Association, took part in the ceremony.

The nonprofit Graves Concerns Association is a local volunteer organization dedicated to the restoration of the historic Western State Hospital Cemetery.

Because of the stigma of mental illness, only small, rectangular concrete markers bearing a number were used to identify the hospital's patients buried between 1876 and 1953.

The Grave Concerns Association works not only to retrieve the identity and dignity of the buried, it also strives to bring back their personal histories.

Dimond's tireless and impecable research and remarkable memory of all things connected to the Civil War led to the identification of the unmarked graves of Bean and Blanchard.

Cooley's gravestone was rededicated.

"There are more Civil War veterans and other wars' veterans buried here," he continued, "and there will be more ceremonies."

Led by Mark Steven, commander, Department of the Columbia, SUVCW, the ceremony followed the traditions and procedures established by the Allied Orders of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1917 and 1868.

"It is really something wonderful to remember these men," commented Sgt. Tony Pasillas, as he inspected his .58 caliber British-made Enfield rifle.

"They served their country in order to preserve the Union and ultimately end slavery.  They are worthy of our recognition."

In an ordered and simple manner, three wreaths - one for each soldier - were laid, prayers said, a black powder, three-volley rifle salute, and "Taps" marked the ceremony.

"In this silent camping ground of the dead ... we honor the memory of these defenders," intoned Chaplain DH Shearer, SUVCW.

"As we remember Oliver Bean, Thomas Blanchard and Charles Cooley, let us cherish their example as patriots and defenders of those principles they believed to be right."

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