Veterans Respecting the Veterans of the Past (video)
Orting, Washington – The Washington Soldier’s Home cemetery is the oldest- and first – Veteran’s Cemetery in Washington State. It is the final resting place for veterans from the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and up through Vietnam. There are 4 Medal of Honor Recipients, 4 purple heart Recipients, Bronze Star and Silver Star Recipients, and many others buried there… 2,483 graves of Americans who fought for our freedoms and 200 of their spouses.
Forgotten and Disrespected
Michael Campbell, a USN Desert Storm veteran, Lead admin and creator of the 6th Congressional District Republicans WA State FB group, contacted Uncle Sams about the cemetery. He told us – showed us – through his pictures, that veterans, public officials, and community members from their area are coming together to restore the graves of those who chose to fight for freedom. The cemetery is in dismal repair; the veterans graves left forgotten. And there is much work to be done.
Michael’s website is at this link.
2 USMC veterans, a Navy Veteran, and an Army veteran… have come together with the surrounding community to restore respect and honor to the graves of those interred at the cemetery.
“When I first saw the cemetery, I didn’t know how bad the state of disrepair was. It really moved me. Trees had overgrown some of the headstones……..I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s our duty to remember our veterans, to keep their memory alive. This cemetery is part of our national heritage…our veterans thought of us; it is our responsibility to think of them.” Marc Perez, Farmer’s Insurance Agent and US Army Veteran
Led by Washington State Rep Graham Hunt, a US Marine veteran, clean up days were started to try to change the face of the cemetery. He, Michael, as well as numerous community members were joined by Mr. Perez, and Joshua Penner from the Orting City council (also a US Marine Veteran).
The cemetery is owned by the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs (WADVA). The State VA funds headstones for interment, but not funds for upkeep. Over the years, trees have overgrown the grounds, shoving headstones aside, wrapping roots around them. The trees have also contributed to acidic damage on the headstones, so that many of them cannot be read.
Some of the old pine caskets used in times past are no longer far enough below ground to avoid being snagged by the lawnmower, which creates the need for some graves to be reset. Many headstones can’t be read, but one headstone can’t be read at all-why? Because it is backwards, and a pump house (that doesn’t work) was built on top of the grave.
“It’s an egregious disrespect.” Marc Perez
Community members have attended two cleanup events, one in April, and one on May 16. The first event had around 70 in attendance, the 2nd only about half that. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t working hard. The last event on May 16 saw headstones scrubbed with the same whitening solution used at Arlington National Cemetery – the solution was obtained by Rep Hunt. Mr. Perez was able to obtain donated buckets from 3 Safeway stores for the cleaning crews to use.
“Everyone of us have put our own money into this project.”
Young and old they came. Children scrubbed and worked as hard as the adults. On young man was asked why he was cleaning headstones, and he said simply, “Because I want to be nice to them.”
The people cleaned the headstones, they took turns spraying them with the chemical solution from Arlington to lighten their color, they prepared the cemetery as best they could for Memorial Day. But the work has along way to go to be complete. The trees need to be removed, as the acid from the pine needles has worn away the engraving on the headstones, and damaged others. Many of the headstones will have to be re-engraved or replaced entirely. And all of that will cost money- lots of it.
Many of the headstones in the grounds are irreparably stained, but the chemical from Arlington National Cemetery made a huge difference. They spiffed up the cemetery for Memorial Day, but more work needs to be done.
“Your silent tents of green, we deck with fragrant flowers; yours has the suffering been, the memory shall be ours.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Indeed, the memory should be ours.
They are working on social media to spread the word: Google Plus page, Twitter account-@OrtingCemetery
The following video by Marc Perez shows some of the final results of their cleaning day at the cemetery.