Introduction to the Russell Mitchell Post
The Russell Mitchell Post is one of the oldest VFW Posts with continuous service in Virginia. It is one of the Posts that chartered our state Headquarters. We proudly display two charters at our Post: the original December 2, 1920 charter, spearheaded by 35 VFW members who knew and admired Alexandria native Corporal John Russell Mitchell, a World War I veteran, who they chose to be our namesake. After a break in service during the mid-1920's, our second charter came in 1934 as the Virginia VFW Department was founded; and we received a certificate of perpetuity in 1965.
We lead the way for the "Wreaths Across America" event in December. Post 609 participates in the National Commemorative Commission - 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, issuing honorary lapel pins and appreciation certificates to all Vietnam War Veterans. We operate a military books lending library for our Veteran membership.
As we meet at the Alexandria National Cemetery, we keep watch over the graves of 4,230 Veteran heroes of all U.S. wars from the Civil War to present-day Middle East conflicts. We host the posting of "American lags In" the ground on Saturday before Memorial Day, and we support American Legion Post 24 in co-sponsoring a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Cemetery.
VFW Post 609 has an active VFW Auxiliary with 40+ participants, family members and other supporters of military Veterans. The Auxiliary's 13 different programs include support at local hospitals and a variety of civic and community activities. The Auxiliary meets monthly, currently at the American Legion Post 3939 in Fairfax, VA.
Post 609 members render assistance to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery Administration (NCA) oversight team in Triangle, VA. We inspect the cemetery grounds and caretaker's building after heavy storms, assist in lowering/raising the American Flag. We maintain a 24-hour per day retired American Flag" collection point for the return of worn flags for delivery to Cub Scout and Boy Scout Troops for the conduct of respectful flag burning ceremonies.
The historic Alexandria National Cemetery is a place of assembly for other Veteran groups: American Legion Post 1775, and the Association of the U.S. Navy Kenyon Anderson Chapter.
Post 609 Meeting Information
We meet on federal property, thus, we are a dry post. We do not have a canteen; we do not host games or public funding activities. We are active in the community through our mainstay VFW youth programs. We sponsor three annual school activities: Patriot's Pen writing competition for middle schoolers, Voice of Democracy for high school speakers, and a VFW Teacher of the Year award. We also give awards for Scout of the Year and to military cadet organizations, e.g. the Civil Air Patrol.
VFW Post 609 meets the second Saturday each month at the Alexandria National Cemetery, in our "Post Home" since the 1980's. Our home is the Meigs Lodge caretaker's building at 1450 Wilkes Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. The location of our "home" was facilitated by a former Alexandria legislator who ensured Post 609 had a place for its members to meet.
About the Cemetery
Alexandria National Cemetery is a United States National Cemetery, of approximately 5.5 acres, located in the city of Alexandria, Virginia. Administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, it is one of the original national cemeteries that were established in 1862. As of 2014, it was site to over 4,500 interments. The cemetery can accommodate the cremated remains of eligible individuals. Alexandria National Cemetery is closed to new interments. The only interments that are being accepted are subsequent interments for veterans or eligible family members in an existing gravesite.
Alexandria National Cemetery was the first to bury US Colored Troops (USCT) with their white brothers-in-arms. Union African-American troops convalescing in a nearby hospital generated a petition with 443 signatures which assured 230 black soldiers who died in Alexandria during the war were honored here, rather than a Freedman's cemetery. Many USCT are buried in Sections B and C.
As one of the original national cemeteries, it served as the burial grounds for mostly Union soldiers who died in the numerous hospitals around the Alexandria area, but by 1864 it was almost filled to capacity. This led to the development of the Arlington National Cemetery. The remains of 39 Confederates, originally buried in the cemetery during the Civil War, were disinterred by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1879. The remains were reinterred in Christ Church cemetery.
Alexandria National Cemetery is located near the Old Town section of Alexandria, Va., amid several other community cemeteries. The original cemetery consisted of approximately four acres known as Spring Garden Farm. Most of this land was acquired by the United States in the 1860s, and by November 1870 the cemetery had reached its current size of a little over five acres.
Alexandria was one of the principal campsites for Union soldiers sent to defend Washington, D.C., at the outbreak of the Civil War. These troops, composed primarily of "three-month volunteers," were unprepared for the demands of war. When they tried to turn the Southern advance at Bull Run, they were decisively defeated and hastily retreated back to Washington. At one point in the war, General Robert E. Lee and his Southern troops rode the outskirts of Alexandria where they were close enough to view the Capital dome. As the tide of the war turned, especially after Gettysburg, the frontlines of the war moved west and away from Washington, D.C. The fortress area at Alexandria, however, continued to serve as a major supply and replacement center throughout the remainder of the war.
Alexandria National Cemetery is one of the original 14 national cemeteries established in 1862. The first burials made in the cemetery were soldiers who died during training or from disease in the numerous hospitals around Alexandria. By 1864, the cemetery was nearly filled to capacity, which eventually led to the planning, development and construction of Arlington National Cemetery.
As of 1871, Alexandria National Cemetery encompassed a cobblestone avenue, a fountain, an ornate wrought-iron rostrum, graveled walks and paths, a small pond and a greenhouse. Today, the superintendent's lodge is the primary building on the grounds and the oldest surviving structure. It was constructed of reddish Seneca sandstone and brick around 1870. Seneca sandstone was popular during Washington, D.C.'s, "brownstone era" (1840–1880), and can be found in many of the region's prominent buildings, including the Smithsonian Institution "Castle," and the U.S. Capitol floor and rotunda door frames. U.S. Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs designed the lodge in a Second French Empire style; approximately 55 of these lodges were constructed in national cemeteries between 1870 and the end of the century.
The original 1887 "comfort station" at Alexandria was converted into a kitchen/store room and tool shed/toilet when a brick summer dining room was added in 1927. Although significantly altered, the old comfort station is one of few structures like these to survive. The 16-foot ornamental iron rostrum with a capacity to hold 24 chairs and one table was demolished sometime after 1931. An enclosure wall constructed of Seneca sandstone with River Blue Stone coping surrounds the property; visitors pass through 12-foot wide ornamental cast-iron entry gates at the Wilkes Street entrance.
During the 1930s, the Civilian Works Administration (CWA) made general repairs to the lodge and outbuildings and erected a new flagpole. Alexandria National Cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
Monuments and Memorials
One large granite boulder memorial was erected by the U.S. government on July 7, 1922, in honor of the Pursuers of President Lincoln's Assassin. The four men were Quartermaster Corps employees who drowned in the Potomac River on April 24, 1865, while pursuing John Wilkes Booth.
Contact the Post
VFW Post 609 can be reached at:
Post Commander Gerald "Jerry" Krueger
1450 Wilkes St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 850-6397