Oak Grove Cemetery in Delaware serves as the final resting place for veterans of every war in which the United States has been involved. When Mike Serrott and his coworkers decided they wanted to honor one of them with a brick at the Veterans Memorial Plaza located at the Ohio Army National Guard Readiness Center on South Houk Road, Serrott knew exactly where to look.
Serrott, who works for the City of Delaware’s Parks and Natural Resources Department, assists at Oak Grove Cemetery, while also tending to the Veterans Memorial Plaza. Looking for a veteran to honor as part of Memorial Day, he had no shortage of options as he went to Oak Grove to complete his search.
Aside from simply representing a veteran at the plaza, however, Serrott sought out a veteran from America’s earlier wars, which didn’t have the same representation at the plaza as wars such as World War II or Vietnam. Specifically, Serrott was hoping to identify a veteran from World War I or earlier to receive the honor. Among all the thousands of gravesites at the cemetery, one, in particular, would stand out, making it an easy decision for Serrott as to who would receive the honor.
Just off of one of Oak Grove’s many winding roads, which Serrott drives nearly every day, sits a gravestone for the Carroll family. Among those buried at the site is John Carroll, a Delaware resident born in 1893 who would go on to attend Ohio Wesleyan University.
Carroll was shipped to Europe following the United States’ involvement in World War I, serving in the 147th Field Hospital. While in Europe, he developed appendicitis and was removed from battle to a hospital in France. While on the mend, Carroll was stricken with influenza, commonly known as the Spanish Flu, and died on Jan. 27, 1919.
Originally buried in Le Mans, France, the disembarkment location for soldiers returning home from the war, his body was returned to Delaware, where he was reinterred at Oak Grove on Sept. 26, 1920. Carroll’s reinternment was met with much fanfare from the community as members from Ohio Wesleyan, his fraternity, and the American Legion all attended the service. A quartet was also on hand, and “Taps” was sounded during the ceremony. Six members of the 147th Field Hospital served as pallbearers.
The reinternment date, which is chiseled into the Carroll headstone, stood out immediately to Serrott last winter as he began the search, recognizing that the centennial of the ceremony would be approaching in a matter of months.
“Instead of doing (the ceremony) on Memorial Day, I said, ‘Why don’t we do a ceremony and a brick on the centennial,’” Serrott said. “We specifically wanted to do something for a war not forgotten, but long ago. What we noticed in taking care of (the plaza) is once you go from World War I back, they’re empty.
“We were just going to anonymously (donate a brick) through our department, just something with our own money. We weren’t going to make a big deal about it, but this is a little different because of the centennial,” Serrott added.
Following the discovery of Carroll’s grave, Serrott went to work in finding more information on the life of Carroll, although that proved to be difficult due to the current pandemic. Fortunately, Serrott was able to contact the Delaware County Historical Society, which pulled the original Delaware Gazette article from the day following Carroll’s reinternment ceremony.
On Saturday, Sept. 26, Carroll received another graveside ceremony thanks to the efforts of Serrott and his coworkers. The ceremony was attended by the Delaware Honor Guard, which fired a volley and sounded “Taps” for Carroll once more. Serrott also gave a speech during the ceremony.
“It was a really good ceremony,” Serrott said. “(The Honor Guard) gave him a heck of a treatment.”
Following the events at Oak Grove, the ceremony moved to the Veterans Memorial Plaza, where the brick was installed. Serrott, a self-proclaimed history buff, said the plan is for him and his coworkers to honor a veteran every Memorial Day moving forward. He said the idea will continue to be to honor veterans of earlier wars, so the Spanish-American War on back to the Revolutionary War will be the focus in the coming years.
Given the current divide in the country, Serrott said the experience has been a great reminder that it is imperative to remember that our very right to hold differing opinions is, in large part, thanks to the veterans who have served.
“Right now, this is a toxic atmosphere,” Serrott said of the country’s division. “We’re divided, it’s an election year. It’s toxic … We may not even know how to move forward to create a better country. But let’s not forget that in the middle of all of this, and during a pandemic, that if we can work through this, this will be a better country. And that’s on the backs of everyone that gave us that right to disagree.”
While Serrott and his coworkers will continue to honor a veteran every year, community members are encouraged to honor their own heritage with a brick in the plaza. Anyone interested in additional details about the memorial bricks or the order form can visit www.delawareohio.net or call 740-203-1810.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.