Foreign Affairs leaders honor Department employees’ sacrifices

A musician plays Taps on his bugle while Ambassador Kenneth Merten (left) and Diplomatic and Consular Officers Retired (DACOR) President James Dandridge II (second from left) lay a wreath at the DACOR memorial monument, May 31. Photo by Jenifer Morris
A musician plays Taps on his bugle while Ambassador Kenneth Merten (left) and Diplomatic and Consular Officers Retired (DACOR) President James Dandridge II (second from left) lay a wreath at the DACOR memorial monument, May 31. Photo by Jenifer Morris

By Tom Brannan

On the last Monday in May, Americans observe Memorial Day, honoring members of the U.S. military who have died in service of their country. On that same day at a small cemetery in Washington, the Diplomatic and Consular Officers Retired (DACOR) organization honors departed Foreign Service officers, including those who died in the past year. Rev. John J. Hurley Jr. offered the invocation at this year’s ecumenical service at Rock Creek Cemetery, held annually since 1984. DACOR President James Dandridge II presided over this year’s ceremony where Ambassador Kenneth Merten, principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Global Talent Management, laid a wreath at the flagstaff monument to the Foreign Service. “In Remembrance of Their Service to Their Country” is inscribed on the monument. 

“Foremost in our thoughts today are the 71 names of fallen colleagues added to the memorial plaques in the State Department’s C Street lobby a few short weeks ago on Foreign Affairs Day… and our colleagues lost over the past year during the pandemic,” Merten said during his remarks. “We also pay tribute to the more than 1,100 colleagues and family members buried here. Our task today is to honor their service and sacrifice by continuing the work they began.” 

Among Department of State officials buried at Rock Creek Cemetery is Wilbur J. Carr, who served as chief of the Bureau of Consular Affairs. Carr worked with President Theodore Roosevelt to pass the Lodge Act of 1906, ending the patronage system of appointing consuls and creating a career path based on merit. During his tenure as assistant secretary of state from 1924–1937, Carr drafted the Rogers Act of 1924 that united consular and diplomatic services into the Foreign Service. Buried in the cemetery’s DACOR memorial sections are more than 1,100 DACOR members and family members.

A decade ago, DACOR opened its membership to active duty Department of State employees and U.S. citizens who are “foreign affairs professionals.” Its current membership totals 1,550.

Tom Brannan is chair of DACOR’s Public Outreach Committee.

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