Community service

Volunteers have worked for four years to clear brush at Military Cemetery in Sackets Harbor, which created nearly 2,000 additional gravesites. Lauren Miller/Watertown Daily Times

Some people have a true heart for serving others.

Members of the American Legion Riders at Post 1757 in Sackets Harbor took note of how a good portion of Military Cemetery had become overrun with brush. The cemetery, near Madison Barracks at Dodge Avenue and Spencer Drive, had implemented a policy to limit space offered to veterans and their spouses: If one of the spouses was buried there, the other spouse had to be cremated to be interred. The American Legion Riders wanted to do something about this.

In 2016, they and other volunteers began clearing the grounds to provide space for more gravesites. Their work more than doubled the size of the cemetery. They initially believed they’d add about 500 burial plots, but the project actually freed up enough space for nearly 2,000 sites.

Many people took part in the cleanup project over the past four years. Volunteers from the community, local businesses and the Veterans of Foreign Wars joined soldiers from Fort Drum in the effort.

Thomas E. Spencer, one of the Legion Riders, organized the project with former Sackets Harbor resident Kevin Oliver, a Southwest Airlines pilot who now lives in Melbourne Beach, Fla., with his wife, Dana. Sackets Harbor resident Dan Hoagland rounded out the crew, and they got the ball rolling with about 20 Legion Riders.

Matt-Farr Logging from Port Leyden offered its services to clear trees — at no cost. Mr. Oliver raised about $6,700 for the project through a Florida bicycle ride he took from Fort Myers Beach to Melbourne Beach in 2018. A. Cozzi Monuments of Watertown donated a bench to Military Cemetery inscribed with the names of people who helped complete the expansion project.

Spouses will no longer need to be cremated to be buried at Military Cemetery. The determination of all those who gave their time for this project is inspiring.

This all began with some individuals who have served our nation in uniform. They wanted to improve the condition of Military Cemetery for their comrades, so they spent four years making it better. We are grateful for the spirit they have exhibited to enhance our society, and we hope others follow their lead.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(1) comment

Really, really wonderful!

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