Local News

Retired Nurses on Grave-Saving Mission

Posted May 24, 2007 7:37 p.m. EDT
Updated May 25, 2007 8:46 a.m. EDT

— Retired nurses Evelyn Shepard and Yvonne Stanley have plenty of experience taking care of people. Now, they are taking care of something different – neglected graves.

As Memorial Day approaches, the women are on a mission to restore the glory to veterans.

“These people deserve better than what they have received in the past, and it's a disgrace,” Stanley said.

Sometimes crawling on their hands and knees, these two volunteers clear heavy brush, trees and other debris to make hundreds of graves more presentable.

“They were people, they have a history,” Shepard said.

The women treat each one like a friend.

“Johnson Brown … Hey Johnson, we got you baby,” Shepard said.

Some graves have broken headstones, orange flags mark those with no stone at all. Many veterans are buried here from World War One, World War Two, and the Korean War.

“It broke my heart to see the veterans out here,” Stanley said.

One of those veterans is Shepard's brother who died in Korea at age 19.

Members of the Air Force just placed a flag next to his stone.

“And that's the first flag we've been able to put beside him to honor him for what he did,” Shepard said. “And I thank him.”

Nearly every day they uncover a new grave.

“I haven't found my father, I haven't found my grandmother,” Shepard said. “But I know I will find them.”

This weekend, volunteers will place American flags on all uncovered veterans graves. Dozens of volunteers have helped the women and have donated supplies along the way. They're now trying to get family members to come forward to identify all the graves in the cemetery.

“It’s going to take several more months, but we're not going to give up and we're going to continue cleaning until it’s finished,” Stanley said.