Veterans as their mission to clean up historic cemetery

Dona Ana, N. M. – As Memorial Day rolls around, a group of veterans are making it their mission to refurbish a historic cemetery with the graves of the civil war and the Mexican-American War.

Before the group began its work, the cemetery was overgrown with mesquite bush and wormwood. But in 2013, Peter Stone was scouting locations for a feature film, and walked next to the cemetery and saw a small metal angel, crosses and headstones in the bushes. That led to the idea for him on the renovation of the cemetery.

“It was a cemetery that time forgot. And if you look at the markers, and the age of the data that they birth and the dates that they died. We are the history”, said Stone, a motion picture location scout and army veteran.

This year, Stone and a team of volunteers, mostly veterans, went to work. They removed the shrubs and brush and renovated some of the tombstones.

The research led to a number of the buried were members of Teddy Roosevelt’s Dragoons, a mounted Calvary division. Some of these graves are void and non-identifiable.

“It hurts, to see all these veterans are respected. I did not like, not at all,” said Robert Richie, the commander of the American Legion Post 10, and an army veteran.

The effort took a massive leap forward when nearly 200 volunteers in April as part of a joint effort of the local Fox and CBS TELEVISION stations. The volunteers got more done in a day, then the team had finished the year.

“People do care. We reached out and they responded. We are not finished yet, but some honor and respect is given to our heroes of old,” Stone said.

Now all veterans’ graves at the American flags, and spotlights, so that they are visible in the night.

The group also has further plans for the future. They are hoping for a statue and a flagpole placed in the middle of the cemetery and building a fence built along the perimeter.

Volunteers are optimistic, they can arrange a formal ceremony with a color guard, taps and a flyover.

“So people can come here and realize that they are not just a bunch of old stones covered in mesquite bushes. It is part of our history,” said Dona Ana County Commissioner John Vasquez, who is also a veteran.

He estimates that it could take up to two years for the completion of the project, depending on the number of volunteers and the money from their efforts receive.

Ray Bogan is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in El Paso, Texas. Follow him on twitter: @RayBogan


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