WWI Veteran Gets Headstone 60 Years After Death


In 1955 McDonald’s made its debut and gas cost a mere 23 cents per gallon. Times have changed, but the grave of a WWI veteran who died that year has been left untouched and unfinished.

A Mitchell woman has made it her mission to honor Joseph Robert Ward 60 years after his death.

There are thousands of stories hidden beneath the surface at Mitchell’s Graceland Cemetery – some louder than others. But all it takes is one person to listen closely and hear a story that’s buried a little deeper.

“We have those sayings, veterans are not to be forgotten, no man left behind, no one forgotten. Well, he was forgotten,” said Jessica Davidson, Davison County Veterans Service Officer.

For the past six months, Jessica has taken it upon herself to get a permanent gravestone for Ward.

“He’s not my family member, but he is family. He’s a veteran,” said Jessica.

Since his death in 1955, Ward’s grave has been marked by a small temporary headstone.

“It’s disheartening. It makes a person want to cry. Because you think about it, no family, no friends, he’s been here for 60 years in our cemetery and we didn’t know,” said Jessica.

Getting a proper headstone was a difficult process partly because there was no record of Ward’s discharge from the Army. Jessica was eventually able to get a replica from the National Archives.

“From Jun. 18, 1918 to Jan. 19, 1919, he was honorably discharged as a horseshoer, and that was all that they could verify of his service,” said Jessica.

It was enough to give Ward the honor he deserves.

“I am so happy. I mean there are no words to bring the joys of how happy I am to finally see this,” said Jessica.

Other than the fact that he served, there’s little known about Ward, who was actually from Texas.

“All I know is he was a carnival concessionaire and he passed away here,” said Jessica.

But for Jessica, that’s all she needed to know.

“I can say I did something good for somebody, even though nobody else will probably know, it’s something that was finally done for him,” said Jessica.

Finally, the story of Joseph Robert Ward has been brought to the surface.

Jessica recently learned that there are seven other veterans without permanent gravestones in the cemetery. She says now that Ward’s has arrived, she’ll begin working on the rest.