May 29, 2009
By Daniel Muñoz
Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. At Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nestor a very special Memorial Day will be celebrated this May 30, 2009 to recognize the veterans laid to rest there and to commemorate the resurrection of the site. The ceremony will be led by 82nd Airborne Association, San Diego Chapter.
According to Lalo Rodriguez of the Airborne Association, they hope to raise awareness of the many headstones that have been destroyed or are completely missing of former military servicemen. “We want to make the community aware of the condition of the grave stones destroyed or missing so that if anyone in the community knows of a military member buried there and if the headstone is damaged or missing that the headstone can be replaced for free through the VA.”
One of the smallest cemeteries in San Diego County this private cemetery, established in 1899 by Hollis M. Peavy, the Mount Olivet Cemetery had become a forgotten place, overgrown by weeds, vandalized, and neglected.
The situation changed for the better when Michael Turko of the Turko Files aired a special report on the condition of the cemetery. In April Turko reported that the cemetery had been cleaned up and was now a respectful place for those buried there. Today, an American Flag has a permanent home, irrigation has been added, and a new water fountain is planned, all thanks to James Matthias of Bonita.
The Airborne Association wants to help complete the restoration by re-establishing the military headstones and give those who served in our military the dignity that they deserve.
Replacement of headstones and markers is the responsibility of the Department of Veterans Affaires and according to the law headstones and markers previously furnished by the Government may be replaced at Government expense if badly deteriorated, illegible, stolen or vandalized.
For replacement of headstone or marker, you can call the Memorial Programs Service Applicant Assistance Unit at the toll-free number below 1-800-697-6947 or go to their website: http://www.cem.va.gov/hm/hmrepl.asp for assistance.
Local residents can also call Lalo Rodriguez at 619-392-2910 or email him at: Lalo508@aol.com for help and guidance with this process.
The Memorial Day Ceremony will take place May 30 at 1:30 pm, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, 2227 Iris Avenue, San Diego.