PETERSBURG, Va. -- Members of a local chapter of a military fraternity spent the weekend cleaning up an overgrown patch of the Wilkerson Memorial Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day.
It was the second year that members of the Tau Chapter of the Kappa Lambda Chi Fraternity Inc. had done so.
Member and U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Alexander Olivieri-Rodriguez said the fraternity first noticed the overgrown section last Memorial Day when they were placing flags on veterans’ graves in Blandford Cemetery, which is adjacent to Wilkerson.
"And as we started looking, we started identifying that some of these headstones kept on saying "World War I" veteran was here,” said Rodriguez.
The section sat in between the two cemeteries, replete with mature trees, including one that had partially grown over one World War One tombstone and grass that was waist-high.
Rodriguez said the fraternity returned several times that summer to clear as much of the section as they could. They returned again this past weekend to clean up the growth that had returned.
He said they had assumed that the section was a part of Blandford Cemetery and only learned Monday that it was a part of Wilkerson Memorial Cemetery, owned by Virginia Burial Supply, Inc.
The manager of Wilkerson's told CBS 6 that when they purchased the cemetery in 2001, the land records did not show that section as belonging to them and they assumed it was part of Blandford. It was not until a land survey was done in 2018 that they confirmed it was a part of their property.
She added that a lot of records for the cemetery were lost in a fire that happened several owners before them. She said they do not know how many graves are in that section, much less how many of them are veterans.
"Now that that has been settled, then they going to start a project to actually get the grave sites back where they're supposed to,” added Rodriguez.
He said the fraternity has offered to help with the clean-up and maintenance of the section, adding the members deeply touched by all this because the veterans buried there had paved the way for them.
"One day, it's going to be our time to pass away and we would like the exact same treatment to be provided to us to be buried with dignity, reverence, and respect.”
Rodriguez said the fraternity will return to the section on Memorial Day to place flags on the veteran’s tombstones that have been identified.