Citizen Staff Writer
The remains of 61 U.S. Cavalry soldiers and some of their dependents exhumed from the downtown site of the future County-City Joint Courts Complex will begin their final journey Friday morning.
They will be re-interred at the Southern Arizona Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Sierra Vista on Saturday.
The remains will be escorted from All Faiths Cemeteries, 2151 S. Avenida Los Reyes, by scores of motorcyclists from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Patriot Riders. They will be reburied with full military honors at the new historical cemetery near Fort Huachuca.
The remains were among more than 1,800 exhumed and stored as part of an archaeological dig at the site of the courts complex, near the southeast corner of Stone and Toole avenues. The site was territorial Tucson’s first cemetery.
The soldiers were stationed at Fort Lowell from the 1860s to 1880s.
Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of the Catholic Diocese of Tucson will conduct a brief service at 10 a.m.
Before the caskets are loaded into two five-ton military transport vehicles for the trip to Sierra Vista, they will be covered in American flags of their service period.
“We will drape their caskets with 34-star flags from that time period,” Joe Larson of the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services said Wednesday.
“They will be simultaneously covered (with) the flags” by honor guards from all four major branches of the U.S. military, Larson said.
The soldiers’ remains also will receive an air escort from Tucson to Sierra Vista.
Many soldiers of the period sent to the wars against Indians in the Southwest were immigrants to this country and were compelled to enlist for want of other work.
Diseases such as malaria and dysentery claimed many, unaccustomed as they were to the harsh Sonoran Desert climate, Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services records show.
The great majority of the remains exhumed were of civilians in an adjacent burial area, said Roger Anyon, project manager for the Pima County Cultural Resources and Historical Preservation Office, which supervised the archaeological work at the site.
The remains of the deceased civilians, some of whom have descendants living here, will be reburied in local cemeteries over the next several months, he said.