Marine Corps veteran Kevin C. Fitzpatrick is taking steps to insure our armed forces heroes are not forgotten in the year of COVID-19.
The New York City historian and author will mark Veterans Day with a Woodlawn Cemetery walking tour, visiting the graves of prominent soldiers who long ago served our country.
The mile-long walk is set for this coming Saturday as Fitzpatrick provides attendees with insights into American service in World War I.
“We got Veterans Day from World War I, and Woodlawn has quite a few veterans' graves whose families had their remains brought back from France," Fitzpatrick explained. “There are a variety of veterans that have been laid to rest at Woodlawn from World War I ... Black, white, women, pilots, and infantry.”
Highlights of the tour include visiting the graves of once-famous but now largely forgotten New York City veterans like Burt Williams.
“Burt Williams was very famous ... he was a vaudeville and Broadway performer," said Fitzpatrick. “He was one of the first Black performers on Broadway, and during World War I he joined the Harlem Hellfighters.”
Wiiliams’ influence as both performer and soldier is covered in great detail about during a stop at the plot he now shares with his wife Charlotte “Lottie” Thompson Williams and mother Julia.
“We talk about him not being just as an entertainer, but as a soldier giving back to the U.S.A.," Fitzpatrick explained.
People will also visit the resting place of native New Yorker Hugh Gordon Campbell, a World War I flyer who came home from the global conflict only to meet a tragic end.
“Hugh Campbell was a pilot and ... when the U.S. entered the war he became a naval aviator," said Fitzpatrick. “Campbell was shot down, survived, and returned to New York — only to die a year later in an air show.”
Such details on heroes from the past make Fitzpatrick’s tour a unique and different way to celebrate Veterans Day in a year where coronavirus prevented the annual Manhattan parade honoring service men and women.
For fellow veteran Fitzpatrick, the tour also serves as a way to ensure that he and other New Yorkers remember vets who died young without a wife or children to carry on their names.
“After 100 years its hard to say if these graves are being visited," he said. “Some of these veterans didn’t even have a chance to have a family. I don’t want these men and women to be forgotten. So we would be honoring them by visiting their graves.”
The tour will be entertaining for history buffs and people looking to enjoy the fall foliage while doing something unique, Fitzpatrick vows. Social distancing will be followed during the stroll through the graveyard.
“People from the five boroughs come on these tours," he said. "And because there will be no parade this year ... this is going to be a safe event you can do to celebrate veterans.”
You can buy tickets for the guided tour, which will run from 12:00 to 2:00 pm rain or shine on Nov. 14th, by calling (718) 408-5624. Space is limited to 20 participants.
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