Honoring history

Published 1:21 pm Monday, November 20, 2017

Not many are brave enough to risk their lives for what they believe in, and anyone who is deserves to be properly honored — which is exactly what Vets Serving Vets did for one late Civil War veteran over the weekend.

On Saturday, the organization, along with several others who helped make the event possible, held a special ceremony at the Hensley Chapel Cemetery to honor veteran Joseph Noe, who fulfilled his service during one of the most grueling times in American history, and — along with his accomplishments in the war — also founded Noetown, an unincorporated community near Middlesboro.

The ceremony was carried through upon the request of Noe’s great-great granddaughter, Mary Kralek, who reached out to Jay Steele, a funeral director at the Arnett and Steele Funeral Home in Pineville, about finding a way to properly pay respect to Noe and the bravery he represented.

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Steele immediately collaborated with Vets Serving Vets in order to make Kralek’s request a reality. Obtaining the stone was a long, vigorous process, but after two years it was made possible by many caring individuals and their dedication to the cause.

Vets Serving Vets is an organization consisting of local veterans, all of whom share a passion to care for and assist all other community members who have served the country. They regularly pay bills, buy groceries or do anything else they can to aid a veteran in need. While Kralek’s request was a bit out of the norm for them, they were more than happy to help in any way they could.

“It is our passion, calling and mission to serve veterans, so we were very honored when Mary asked us to help honor her great-great grandfather, who served in the Civil War,” said Patrick Marsee, a member of the organization.

When Kralek made the request she was already in critical condition due to a drastic form of cancer, and she soon became bedridden. However, Vets Serving Vets made it their goal to provide her with the opportunity to view the honorary grave marker in person, so they went out of their way to bring the stone to her house.

Unfortunately, Kralek passed away Nov. 14 — and she wasn’t able to witness the event take place. Fittingly, her service was held on the same day as the ceremony, with her ashes being spread among the same soil as her great-grandfather’s stone.

“What an honor it is that on the very day that Mary is laid to rest and memorialized, so to is the day that we honor her great-great grandfather for his service as a veteran,” said Marsee. “She never got to see the service, but received solace in knowing that it would soon occur.”

Kralek simply wanted to celebrate the history and heritage of her family, and many dedicated individuals worked together in order to fulfill her dying wish.

While Noe, who died in 1929, already had a headstone in the cemetery, a footstone was placed near his grave during the ceremony in order to honor him for his years of service.

There to pay their respect to the veteran were Civil War reenactors from both the Sons of the Confederacy and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, both of which were thrilled to be a part of such a service.

“I hope we always remember what our great nation stands for, what the flag stands for and what we’re supposed to stand for,” said Vets Serving Vets Chaplain Chris Myers, as he concluded the ceremony.