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Published: Saturday, 5/17/2014

Toledo military veterans, residents honor once-forgotten psychiatric patients, veterans themselves


More than 300 greater Toledo area military veterans and residents gathered today to honor and remember nearly 2,000 former psychiatric patients, many of them war veterans who lived most of their lives hidden from society; buried in nameless, once forgotten graves.

The 7th Annual Veteran’s Memorial Event was held at the Toledo State Hospital‘s old cemetery located behind Bowsher High School, 2200 Arlington Ave. A second, brief service was held later in the day at the new cemetery, located on the University of Toledo Health Science Campus, where 1,100 former patients are buried.

According to hospital records 906 people are buried at the old cemetery, which closed in 1922. But only 250 of those burial sites have been found.

“Over time, the cemeteries were forgotten,” said event guest speaker Mychail Scheramic, CEO of Northwest Psychiatric Hospital. “As the years went by many of the coffins sank deep into the ground and their stone markers collapsed into the hole with them.”

Many of the veterans found buried in the cemetery are from the Civil War era, said Larry Wanucha, a co-founding member of the Toledo State Hospital Cemetery Reclamation Project. The goal of the organization is to promote awareness of the cemeteries, reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues through education and assure that everyone buried at the cemeteries is treated with honor, dignity and respect, he said.

The state psychiatric hospital opened in 1888.

There were many reasons people found themselves committed to psychiatric hospitals, Mr. Scheramic said. Some veterans suffered from what is now known as post traumatic stress; others suffered from depression, severe anxiety, addictions, or developed medical conditions after they were injured during combat.

Today’s event featured guest speakers, music, a roll call of every veteran buried at the two cemeteries, a rifle salute, the shooting of a cannon and taps. A woman clothed in a black dress roamed the cemetery and placed flowers over each gravesite.

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.

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