Volunteers continue cleanup efforts at cemetery on Hunter Army Airfield

Despite the 103 degree heat index, hundreds made it their mission Saturday to ensure that U.S. veterans had a respectable resting place during a volunteer clean up of Lincoln Memorial Cemetery.

 

The event was the second clean-up effort led by Misty Harvest to maintain the area that is privately owned but sits on Hunter Army Airfield. Harvest previously hosted a clean up on June 10.

“No one should ever be forgotten — especially our veterans,” Harvest said. “I had to do something. It just cannot look like this. And the community has been absolutely great. Hunter has been very supportive in allowing us to work and so many companies donated time, equipment and water to help us work. It has been a true community effort.”

Harvest initially visited the cemetery with her children on Memorial Day to decorate the graves of U.S. military veterans. Instead, the mother found the cemetery covered in trash and overgrowth.

Because the cemetery is privately owned by a for-profit company, federal rules prevent military officials from tending to it, according to Steve Hart, Hunter Army Airfield spokesman. The cemetery was already around when the federal government took over the land that now makes up the military installation.

Lincoln Memorial is owned by heirs of Sidney Jones and Frank Bynes, two local funeral home operators. Frenchye Bynes Jones could not be reached for comment but she told the Savannah Morning News in 2013 that not every family with relatives buried in the cemetery pays maintenance fees. In other cases, family members provide their own upkeep. Some plots are so old that no living family remains, according to the 2013 story.

Armed with shovels, rakes and other gardening tools, volunteers turned out in droves to help clear debris, trash and overgrown shrubbery around the cemetery. The sound of lawn mowers, trimmers and other removal equipment could be heard throughout the area as volunteers worked to pull up trash and lay down flowers and flags.

Several of Saturday’s volunteers included active duty service members looking to help out like Isaac Barnes.

“My brothers and I came together, and we just want to do whatever we can to help,” Barnes said as he clipped away at overgrown grass.

Alderwoman Estella Shabazz, who represents the area where the cemetery is located, said Saturday that she commends the volunteers for taking charge.

“This is not the first time that a cemetery has been neglected in the area,” she said. “But to see this response of people helping out is overwhelming. “

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the Lincoln Memorial Support Facebook page.

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