Donations sought for decorations at veteran cemetery in ItalyA pair of Mitchell natives is raising money to continue decorating the graves of South Dakotans who died in Italy during World War II.
By: Marcus Traxler, The Daily Republic
A pair of Mitchell natives is raising money to continue decorating the graves of South Dakotans who died in Italy during World War II.
Darwin Buus and Andrew Young have already helped raise money each of the last two years.
The American Battle Monuments Commission’s database lists 43 South Dakota casualties at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, located on the western coast of Italy in Nettuno, about an hour south of Rome. Most of the causalities occurred between August 1943 and February 1945.
There are 28 South Dakotans buried in the cemetery, plus a wall to honor the 15 from South Dakota lost at sea or missing in action among the 7,861 headstones and 3,095 listed missing.
Buus has estimated 10 to 12 of the names in the database are from the 17-county print circulation area of The Daily Republic.
“It’s been 67 years since the end of the war and there’s a generation or two that doesn’t have a real good recollection of those who served in the war,” he said.
The decorations include a bouquet of flowers near the gravestone cross and a pair of small flags, one for the United States and one for Italy. Inscribed on the grave markers are the soldier’s full name, rank, date of death, unit and state from which they entered the service.
Following World War I and World War II, the interment of the remains of war dead was carried out by the American Graves Registration Service, quartermaster general of the War Department. At that time the next of kin who was authorized to make the decision regarding their loved one’s interment was given the option of having the remains returned to the United States for permanent interment at a national or private cemetery, or permanently interred at the overseas American military cemetery in the region where the death occurred.
Few put forth the effort that South Dakota does in honoring the graves of those who have been buried abroad, according to Buus.
“We’re the only state in the union that does it on a regular basis. We’re fortunate to be able to honor them,” he said.
Young, 35, attended the U.S. Naval Academy and served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Marines before entering the seminary. He attended the Pontifical North American College in Rome when he visited the cemetery and created the connection with Buus. Young was ordained to the priesthood Friday.
“He’s visited the site personally and he knows how much it means to see the sites decorated,” Buus said.
Buus, 80, has been involved with the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars for years. He would like to see the grave-decoration effort carried on for at least two more years. Buus said it costs about $500 per year to maintain the decorations on the graves.
“We’ve gotten a real good response from the state of South Dakota and the Mitchell area. All of the service clubs here in town have been real supportive, and it’s nice that we’re able to do this,” Buus said.
How you can help
Darwin Buus has set up a fund at First National Bank in Mitchell where people can donate to decorating American memorials in Italy. Donations can also be dropped off at the VFW post in Mitchell (105 N. Main St.). For questions, Buus can be reached at 996-7113 or 999-0779.