Sellers inspects American military cemeteries in North Africa and Rome and Florence, Italy

By Greg Miller
STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) member Sara Sellers recently returned from North Africa and Italy, where she inspected American military cemeteries.
Sellers' first visit was to the 77-acre Sicily-Rome Cemetery at the edge of Nettuno, Italy. "The brave men of VI Corps landed on the beaches of Anzio," she said. "Many of the interred or commemorated there gave their lives in the liberation of Sicily (Salerno area)."
At a chapel at the cemetery, Sellers experienced a somber moment. "I laid a rose on the altar and said a prayer for Commander Millard J. Klein, the most highly decorated serviceman from Tennessee," she said.
At the Florence American Cemetery, located 7-1/2 miles from Florence, Italy, an inscription on a wall panel impressed Sellers. "They faced the foe or they drew near him in the stretch of their own manhood and when the shock of battle came, they in a moment of time at the climax of their lives, were rapt away from a world filled for dying eyes not with terror but with glory."
"I wept when I read this, trying to imagine these young boys facing danger and their God -- brave yet scared, no time to really think about dying, maybe even thinking of loved ones, yet willing to give their lives to keep us free..." Sellers said.
"The emotional thing really gets to you."
While at Florence American Cemetery, Sellers prayed and laid a rose at the grave of SSGT Clarence Webb, a Tennessee soldier who was the most highly decorated serviceman from the state buried there.
Sellers and Secretary of State Colin Powell laid a wreath at the North Africa Cemetery in Tunisia. Sellers laid a rose and prayed at the gravesite of Capt. Robert D. Dwin, the most highly decorated serviceman from Tennessee buried there.
Sellers looked at various items during the inspection process. "I go and check to make sure the upkeep of all the facilities, the equipment, see if the crosses need replacing," she said.
An agency of the executive branch of the U.S. government, funding for ABMC is approved by Congress. "Congress authorizes us a budget to go and make sure of the upkeep of anything that would interfere with any of the cemeteries," Sellers said. "We want to make sure of the dignity of the upkeep of them at all times."
Sellers says the cemeteries she visited are maintained at a 100 percent level. 'The grass is immaculate," she remarked. "The flowers, in most of the countries, are in bloom all year long. The crosses are washed and cleaned, and they even clean underneath the crosses to make sure there is no mold and no dirt."
Workers at the cemeteries cut the grass, plant flowers, and "make sure that there is nothing to detract" from the serenity and beauty of the setting.
"The maintenance of it you just wouldn't believe," Sellers commented. "Everything looks so beautiful. Even the shops and machinery. You couldn't even find a little bit of grease on them or anything. No matter what it is, they keep it in tip-top shape. The flag poles are cleaned at least twice a week."
In addition to the cemeteries she visited recently, Sellers has inspected cemeteries in England, France, Louxembourg, Holland and Belgium.
In the future, Sellers will be inspecting cemeteries in the Philippines, Panama and Mexico.
President Bush appointed Sellers to the ABMC after the election of 2000. The president appoints members to the ABMC, as well as the Kennedy Center Board of Directors.