St. Paul's American Legion Post 145

POST COMMITTEES

AMERICANISM COMMITTEE

Chairman:  Jim Hunter

VETERAN GRAVESITE COMMITTEE

Co-Chairmen: Donald Colby and Tony Scott

Veterans Graves Committee

 

The Veterans Graves Committee oversees the Veteran Graves Project. The purpose of this Committee is to ensure all Veterans buried in St. Paul’s Parish are not forgotten and are properly honored at their place of burial. From the Revolutionary War forward and into the future, a Veteran need only serve to be so honored.

 

  1. Mission

Ensure all Veterans buried in St. Paul’s Parish are located, identified and are properly honored at their place of burial. This mission has six major mission tasks:

 

  1. Identification, Cataloguing and Reporting
    1. Identify every cemetery, public and private, within the historical bounds of St. Paul’s Parish and create a database with geographical information, along with the landowner’s or churches’ contact information for each
    2. Identify every Veteran burial site within those cemeteries as well as each Veteran’s information and enter in a database or Excel spreadsheets, as appropriate.
    3. Photograph and geolocate each identified Veteran burial site. (See Section IV on Photographing cemeteries/graveyards at the end of this document.)
    4. Report each burial site (and associated Veteran information, geolocation and site image) to Local, County, State, and National organizations, as appropriate, to ensure proper documentation of previously undocumented burial sites;
    5. Report each cemetery (and associated name and geolocation and site imagery) to Local, County, State, and National organizations, as appropriate, to ensure proper documentation of previously undocumented cemeteries;
    6. When errors are found, provide corrected information to Local, County, State and National organizations, as appropriate, relative to cemeteries and/or Veterans’ burial sites, and provide evidence of errors to ensure database accuracy
    7. As additional Veterans die and are buried in St. Paul’s Parish, enter them in the Post’s database or spreadsheets and provide to Local, County, State and National organizations, as appropriate.
    8. Research the capability to load all St. Paul’s Parish Veteran Grave information on the Post’s website and implement a solution as time and resources permit.
    9. Provide updates to online databases, such as Find-A-Grave® and BillionGraves® as time and resources permit.
  2. Mapping
    1. Develop a graphical map of each cemetery which clearly shows where each Veteran burial site is located within the cemetery. Church officials/landowners’ permission should be sought;
      1. This facilitates posting the Colors on Memorial Day and it makes identifying new burial sites much easier;
    2. When completed, each map will also be made available to any church or private landowner associated with the cemetery and will be provided to Local, County, State and National agencies or groups as appropriate;
    3. Digital copies of each map will be available to each Post member for posting of Colors and to the landowner or church, who can decide if they would like the map made public through the Post’s website;
    4. Recruit members who have experience with drones and/or GIS mapping to assist. Develop GIS maps of cemeteries if possible.
  3. Cleaning and Repair
    1. Clean Veteran headstones upon the request of Veterans’ family members, churches or landowners based on availability of materials and our cleaning schedule.
    2. Cleaning will be without cost to Veterans’ families, although donations for supplies will be accepted;
    3. Offer, based on availability of materials and time, the preservation, repair, or resetting of headstones. Initially, this service will be limited to headstones of more historic value or those in danger of more imminent risk of damage;

Note: We have, as a co-chairman of the Committee, a professionally trained preservationist/conservator who is experienced in cleaning and repairing headstones using generally accepted cemetery and gravestone preservation standards.

    4.   Training classes will be scheduled for Post members who want to assist, first in cleaning, later in assisting with repairing and resetting of headstones. Classes on cleaning headstones may also be conducted for church groups, upon request.

  1. Assist Families in Obtaining/Installing VA Markers or Headstones
    1. The Veterans Graves Committee, through social media, articles in local towns’ newsletters or meeting with civic or church groups will attempt to identify Veterans buried in unmarked graves or recently deceased Veterans to help families with obtaining VA medallions, markers or headstones. Information, similar to the following, should occasionally be sent to the various groups or organizations identified above.

Do you know of a Veteran who is buried in St. Paul’s Parish and in an unmarked grave? The St. Paul’s Parish American Legion Post 145 established the Veteran Graves Project to assist in honoring all Veterans buried in St. Paul’s Parish.

The Veterans Administration provides a government headstone or marker for the unmarked grave of any deceased eligible Veteran in any cemetery, regardless of date of death. The headstone is delivered free of charge. Generally, the cost of installation is a private expense; however, if the cemetery will allow, members of St. Paul’s Parish American Legion Post 145, will install government provided headstones free of charge. Additional information on obtaining government headstones may be found at https://www.cem.va/gov/hmm/ and the VA form for requesting headstones is  https://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-1330.pdf . If you need additional help with the form or have questions on installing a government furnished headstone, you may contact the St. Paul’s Parish American Legion Post 145, Veteran Graves Project at https://www.facebook.com/St-Pauls-Parish-American-Legion-Post-145-112416898151253

  1. Conduct workshops for civic or church groups to assist Veteran family members with completing VA forms to obtain VA markers, medallions or headstones.
  2.  Render Honors at Each Veteran’s Burial site at Least Once Every Year
    1. Post the Colors on each Veteran burial site in St. Paul’s Parish for Memorial Day, salute the headstone and speak each Veteran’s name;
    2. Retrieve the Colors within 2 days after Memorial Day, clean and store the Colors.
  3. Advocate for Enhanced Protection and Access Laws for Veteran Burial sites
  4. Recommend a law (laws) to grant access to Veteran burial sites within public and private cemeteries/graveyards by Nationally Chartered Veterans Organizations for the purpose of placing Colors and rending honors during recognized Veteran-related holiday periods and the subsequent retrieval of posted Colors.
  5. Review laws of other states and determine which possible laws would be appropriate for recommending to the SC State Legislature;
  6. Advocate for increased penalties for desecration of Veterans’ burial sites, headstones/gravestones, including the unauthorized removal of United States flags posted at individual Veteran’s burial sites.
  1. So, what can you, as a Post 145 member, do to help?
    1. Volunteer, yourself or with your family and other members to help with the identification, cataloguing, and/or reporting on the cemeteries/graveyards that have not yet been assigned.
    2. Volunteer to be trained to help clean Veteran headstones.
    3. Volunteer to assist in photographing or mapping burial sites/cemeteries.
    4. Volunteer to Post and retrieve the Colors for Memorial Day. While this will be a Post-wide activity, we need many members to handle the size of this undertaking in a dignified manner. Preparation is key.
    5. Volunteer to assist in placement of VA headstones on currently unmarked graves, or to assist in the repair or resetting of existing headstones.
    6. Volunteer if you are an experienced cement worker, or experienced with concrete repair
    7. Volunteer if you are experienced in mortaring brick or restoring mortared brick
    8. Volunteer to identify new Veteran burials at your church graveyard and other cemeteries so we can ensure we have a full accounting of all St. Paul’s Parish Veterans when rendering honors.
    9. Volunteer to research Veterans who may have died in combat, have high military decorations or were involved in a significant military operation.
    10. Volunteer to assist with GIS mapping or use of a drone.
    11. How do you volunteer:
  2. Contact Donald Colby at vetgraves@sc-amlegion145.org and CC the adjutant at adjutant@stpaulsamericanlegionpost145.org .
  3. Let us know
    1. Which tasks, listed above, would you like to help with?
    2. What your availability would be?
    3. Would you like to be assigned a cemetery/graveyard currently not fully documented?
    4. Are you willing to assist in the work of installing or resetting headstones? Note that this task requires measuring, digging, shoveling crushed stone and lifting heavy objects.
  4. Photographing Cemeteries, Graveyards and Burial sites. A How-To For The Veteran Graves Project
    1. Turn on location or geotagging on camera or cell phone – enhanced location setting is preferred
    2. Take a photo of cemetery or graveyard sign as first photo
    3. Take an overall photo that best shows layout of cemetery (if cemetery is not previously photographed)
    4. When photographing a Veteran’s burial site, a reference photo that shows the site in relation to other graves is very helpful.
    5. Take a close-up photo of the actual headstone. If there is more than one headstone, take at least two photos to show each headstone.
  1. Ensure photos clearly show identifying information of the Veteran.
  2. If the headstone is covered in grass, dirt or other debris, clean with a soft brush. Try to pull or cut the grass if it detracts from the photo.
    1. NOTE: Be aware certain items frequently found at burial sites are not debris, such as beer bottles, soda bottles, small stones, coins, or flowers. These may in fact be post-internment, deliberately placed tokens. Do not remove. Your task is to identify and catalogue the Veteran and his/her information.
  3. If the lighting is poor or there is too much sun, you can use a full-length mirror or reflective car sunshade to enhance the lighting or return when the lighting it better.
  1.  If you are photographing more than one cemetery at a time, it is helpful to take a closing photo of the cemetery/graveyard sign to clearly identify the end of that series of photos.
  2. Complete the information on the Cemetery Worksheet (attached)
  1. NOTE: If this is a newly discovered grave or a recent burial for a cemetery with a datasheet already on file, you may just provide all the information in an email instead of completing the worksheet, whichever is easier.
  1. Send completed worksheets and information to vetgraves@sc-amlegion145.org
  1. Attachments (not included)
  1. Unassigned Public Cemeteries
  2. Cemetery Worksheet
  3. Worksheet Grave Marker Keys