AmeriCorps, St. Al students clean National Cemetery

Published 6:59 pm Saturday, November 10, 2018

More than 100 AmeriCorps volunteers were joined by seniors from St. Aloysius High School Saturday, cleaning markers and raking leaves to prepare the National Cemetery at the Vicksburg National Military Park for Veterans Day.

“There’s going to be about 200 people,” park volunteer coordinator Rose Rains said early Saturday morning. “Yesterday (Friday) the headcount was about 184 people.

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“We’re just trying to give these individuals who dedicated their life to service the proper respect they deserve. We’re raking leaves, we’re doing limb removal headstone cleaning, we’re also prepping the cemetery walls for cleaning,” she said.

“We greatly appreciate the efforts of the AmeriCorps volunteers to come and help to preserve the National Cemetery, and of all weekends to have them here on Veterans Day weekend is an appropriate time and an appropriate use of their time,” Park Superintendent Bill Justice said.

Rains said AmeriCorps officials contacted her about working in the park.

“They wanted to get a service opportunity in the park, and it kind of grew with the St. Al students,” Rains said.

Joan Thornton, head of the theology department at St. Al, and a senior class sponsor, said the group was looking for a service project for their senior retreat. She called Rains and learned about the cemetery project.

The groups worked until about 1 p.m. Saturday, with AmeriCorps workers paring off with the students to scrub and clean the markers with a soap mixture and rake and fill large trash bags with leaves.

By pairing the students with the volunteers, Rains said, “they (the students) are not only going to have the opportunity to get their service hours for their service projects, but learn more about the AmeriCorps program and the different opportunities for the future.”

The AmeriCorps workers began about 8 a.m. scrubbing some of markers and raking leaves in a section of the cemetery where many of the African American Union soldiers are buried.

“We’re trying to have the cemetery looking good, not only for the people who are buried here, but also for their families who will come here to visit them,” AmeriCorps team leader Raina Cazier said.

Besides working in the cemetery, AmeriCorps volunteers also worked to improve Beulah Cemetery on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and performed home improvement projects at veterans’ homes and the home of one soldier on active duty.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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