Oklahoma Chapter ensures veterans are properly memorialized decades after their deaths

Members of Chapter 43, Pryor, Okla., bow their heads in prayer at a graveside ceremony honoring World War II veteran Glen C. Plumlee Sr. (Photo by Shane Brown)
Members of Chapter 43, Pryor, Okla., bow their heads in prayer at a graveside ceremony honoring World War II veteran Glen C. Plumlee Sr. (Photo by Shane Brown)

Thanks to the efforts of Chapter 43 in Pryor, Okla., the grave of a World War II Army veteran finally has a service monument, more than three decades after his death.

The mission to memorialize Glen C. Plumlee Sr., who died in 1984, began last February after Chapter Adjutant Mike Walters ordered a tombstone for a friend at a local monument company. There, he learned about 18 bronze service markers that sat in storage at an old funeral home, instead of on veterans’ graves where they belonged.

The markers, which are issued by the government after a veteran dies, normally arrive at a funeral home after burial. It’s usually the family’s responsibility to place them on the graves.

“When I first saw them, it just hit me that here were veterans, brother veterans, who were not being recognized and who had been bypassed through some error or some unknown reason,” said Walters. “This was a chance to correct it.”

All of the unplaced service markers belonged to World War I, World War II, Korea or Vietnam veterans who died in the 1970s and 1980s.

A Vietnam veteran himself, Walters made it his goal to properly place all 18 markers on the graves of the veterans for whom they were made by Memorial Day last year. To do that, he enlisted the help of his fellow Chapter members to right an unintentional wrong.

Since beginning the work to place the bronze service markers on the correct graves, or to pass them on to surviving family members, three more previously unclaimed markers were found, bringing the total to 21.

After weeks of tireless research, Chapter 43 found all 21 of the veterans’ graves.

Still, no one is exactly sure how the markers were forgotten or neglected for so long.

They originally came from an old local funeral home’s storage building, but after the building was sold and demolished several years ago, they went to Witt-Underwood Memorials—the company that approached Walters and DAV for help.

“It was the right thing to do,” Walters said.

Last May, just five days before Memorial Day, Chapter 43 held a ceremony at Bryan Chapel Cemetery, outside Pryor, to place the last marker on Plumlee’s grave and honor the other veterans from the project.

In the chill of an overcast afternoon, about 30 people stood in a loose semicircle at the rural cemetery, gathered around the gravesite of a veteran most had never met.

Those present—some elderly and some young, some dressed in service uniforms and others in tennis shoes—prayed together and listened to DAV leaders describe the importance of the project.

“It’s a very happy day for me,” Walters said. “These veterans will be honored on Memorial Day.”

With Walters’ mission accomplished, Chapter 43 has shown our nation’s veterans that DAV will work without end—on Memorial Day and every other day of the year— to ensure veterans receive proper honors and recognition after they’re gone.