Help American Legion Post 539 Clean and Place Flags on Veterans’ Graves

Ceremony held after cleanup of veterans' graves in Greenwood Cemetery in Nov. 2021 (photo by New Bern Now)
Ceremony held after cleanup graves of veterans in Greenwood Cemetery in Nov. 2021 (photo by New Bern Now)

The Whitehurst-Ware Post 539 American Legion embarked on a project to celebrate the centennial of the American Legion in 2019. This project was to clean the World War I monument outside the Craven County courthouse. In the process of completing this project, it was brought to our attention that some veterans were left off the monument. Most of these veterans were minorities and at the time the monument was erected only the white veterans were recognized. After researching various sources, names were found and added to make the monument more complete, and the monument was rededicated with a fuller roster of Craven County veterans that served in World War I.

The Post started another project to clean and document the graves of those black veterans that rest in Greenwood Cemetery in 2021. This cemetery was in disrepair with many headstones damaged, fallen or sunk into the soil. After some planning and research, supplies were ordered, and Post members were asked to help. In the end, sixty-three headstones were cleaned, and flags were placed to honor these veterans of Greenwood Cemetery.

Headstone of SA2 Lee Simmons Jr. by Greg Ciesielski in Greenwood Cemetery, New Bern, NC
Headstone of SA2 Lee Simmons Jr. (photo by Greg Ciesielski)

This year, the Post will embark on their most ambitious project, Evergreen Cemetery.  After some research, it has been found to have 175 veterans buried there and the Post plans to clean all of them and to place flags before Veterans Day. The veterans in Evergreen Cemetery cover wars and conflicts from World War I to the present day.

This year the Post will be partnering with members of the Montford Point Marine Association (MPMA) as there are eight Marines that were trained in the segregated Montford Point Camp in World War II. These Marines were awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in 2012 and after researching their histories, the National MPMA will attempt to present the families with bronze replicas of that medal if they haven’t received one.

Post members cleaned the veteran graves and placed flags in Greenwood Cemetery on Nov. 7. They will start the clean-up of the Evergreen Cemetery graves of veterans on Nov. 8. The cleaning will start at 9 a.m. and all the volunteers will need to bring is a willingness to work and a pair of gloves. The Post will have all the VA approved cleaning supplies on hand.

By Greg Ciesielski, Post 539 Historian

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