Cadets help repair veterans' gravesites

Friday, November 30, 2012 | 4:11 p.m. CST

MEXICO — Caring for your community and taking the first step in creating change is the first step to good citizenship.

Cadets at the Missouri Military Academy are working on a program to give veterans buried at Elmwood Cemetery a more attractive resting place. Their job will be to clean and repair the tombstones of all veterans currently buried there.

"This will be an undertaking as there are approximately 900 gravesites of veterans at Elmwood Cemetery," said Dr. Steven Wolf of MMA. "Some of the headstones simply need to be cleaned. Others are falling over and will need to be re-set with a proper foundation. Still others may need to be re-set and/or re-glued."

Wolf said this is not a project that can or will be completed in a short amount of time. However, it is the intent of the academy to clean and repair as many of the gravesites of the veterans as possible over time.

"It is something that should be done for those who gave so much for our country," Wolf said.

The cadets will work under the direction of faculty membersSgt. Maj. Henry Suddarth, 1st Sgt. Randy Jacobson, 1st Sgt. Alan Hakes and Wolf. The Mexico Parks and Recreation Department will help the cadets by providing lot identification, expertise, equipment and other assistance.

"I'm sure there are lots of families that have vets buried there," said Mexico Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Director Chad Shoemaker. "If they would contact us, then we can start creating a list of those interested, and permission to proceed."

Shoemaker explained that it's the families of the deceased veterans who are responsible for what the boys want to do. The city is responsible only for keeping the lawn cut and clear of debris. The condition of a veteran's tombstone, if in disrepair, is the responsibility of the family, he said.

As for the cadets' desire to give something back to the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice, Shoemaker said, "We've got a generation of young people that care and that want to honor the veterans, which says a lot about these young people. It's a project that will be based on public response.

"It's possible they won't be able to finish the project. But the fact that they care so much says a lot. All they need is your help, information and permission to do what they want to do."

The gravesites are the personal property of the family and heirs of the veterans interred at Elmwood Cemetery. Therefore, permission must be given by the family and heirs of the veterans before the cadets can or will do any cleaning or repairing. The cost of the cleaning and repair will be the responsibility of the heirs. For some of the veterans interred, there may be difficulty contacting or locating any known heirs. MMA will seek assistance from the VFW and the Audrain County Area Genealogical Society to help with heir identification, family searches and contact information.

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