Local man’s sister buried at Arlington Cemetery

PARKERSBURG – A local retired college professor said his final farewells last week to his sister and her husband as they were interred in Arlington National Cemetery after more than 20 years each with different branches of the U.S. armed services.

“They were both buried with full military honors and it was a privilege to have been there,” said Bob Cordell of Vienna. “They were honored the way it should have been done with members of both the Navy and Marines honor guards, the band and horses those people do the honors right.”

Cordell attended the March 25 burials of his sister Lt. Cmdr. Edwina Cordell Hammond, a 23-year veteran nurse of the U.S. Navy, and her husband Chief Warrant Officer George Hammond, a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, in the national cemetery in Arlington, Va.

Hammond was awarded the Purple Heart with 4 Stars, Combat Action Ribbon with Palms, Presidential Unit Citation with 2 Stars, Navy Unit Commendation medal with Combat “V,” and service medals for World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

During her career, Cordell Hammond served tours in Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Guam and in Naval hospitals from California to New York. She retired with a rank as lieutenant commander in 1976.

In retirement, they moved frequently, from Washington, D.C., to Florida, from his native Tennessee to Las Vegas. They lived in Nevada the longest they had anywhere. It was there George Hammond died of cancer in 2008. Cordell Hammond kept his ashes to be buried with her remains.

“It was what they both wanted; to be together forever and to be together in Arlington is the best place for them with their joint and individual love of this country,” said Cordell, a retired professor of social science at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

Cordell said the cold and wet weather in the Washington, D.C., area did little to deter more than two dozen family members from nine states Utah, Texas, Georgia, Nevada, Tennessee, West Virginia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Virginia who gathered to watch as a white horse-drawn carriage, a riderless horse, honor guard, band, bagpipes, a bugler and a three-volley salute paid tribute as a Navy chaplain conducted the service.

“The evening before the burials, we all got together and spent many hours remembering these two wonderful people that we all loved,” Cordell said. “They gave so much of themselves to others and are missed by so many.

“Edwina and I were very close and never went more than a week without speaking; even though she’s been gone since August, I still have a hole in my life that will never go away,” he said.

After Cordell Hammond’s death in August 2012, her niece Susan Akers of Amarillo, Texas, applied to have both her aunt and uncle buried with honors at the national cemetery. In February, Akers received the news that the couple would be buried in the hallowed ground.

“It is what they deserved because my sister, as a Navy nurse, took care of the Marines and sailors and she demanded the best care to her patients,” Cordell said. “It is an honor to have her and George buried in such a manner.”

Although they relocated their lives numerous times for work and pleasure, Cordell said neither of them had forgotten where they came from Cordell Hammond was raised in Oklahoma but identified Texas as home and Hammond was a proud Tennessee native.

“They never once forgot their roots and several years ago one of my students brought me back a bottle of Oklahoma soil that I want to have scattered over my casket when I am buried here so I can be with soil from both of my homes,” Cordell said. “So, our sister Mary brought soil from Texas for Edwina and Tennessee for George and they were both buried in Virginian soil with some from home talk about returning to your roots!”

The Hammonds had no children and spent the majority of their lives serving their country as individuals and a couple through 40 years of marriage.

“Their marriage was based on mutual respect, common values and common interest; they were further bonded by a fierce sense of loyalty for family and friends plus a very strong sense of patriotism,” Cordell said. “They were a tremendous couple and had a tremendous love story and for them to be buried together in Arlington is a perfect tribute.”