Cemetery care doesn’t need the feds

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 10, 2008

While reading Darrell White’s Top of the Morning concerning the Watkins Street Cemetery, I was shocked, then saddened and finally angry.

Of course Watkins Street Cemetery, and for that matter, any other cemetery within Adams County, should be well taken care of in order to maintain the final resting place of our ancestors and a suitable burial site for our families. But the way to solve this problem is not by dishonoring the National Cemetery by putting it in a paragraph with the words “Jim Crow.”

I understood that the election of President Obama was a change in this kind of rhetoric; I didn’t expect to see barely three days after his election an inflammatory statement such as this. Of course the National Cemetery receives tax dollars to operate but then many of our citizens have lost their lives, shed blood, served their time and had family disruption to earn this honor.

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How dare you make this sound as if it is just another government hand out? Yes, veteran’s spouses and their underage children are eligible to be buried in the National Cemetery, but they also have made sacrifices to support our nation and their military member.

Eligibility for burial in a National Cemetery, funded by tax dollars that the veteran and military families also pay, is a gesture of acknowledgement for those families who sacrifice much to be a military family.

To lump the burial and funding for burial of these American heroes into a racial issue is both disrespectful to every veteran who ever served their country and to every family who has made sacrifices to support that veteran.

It seems to me that Watkins Street and the other Adams County cemeteries could be taken care of by the citizens of Adams County. What about the fantastic fundraising event Angels on the Bluff that is taking place this weekend?

That is an attempt by the city cemetery, where quite a few black citizens are interred, to raise needed funds that can’t be supplied by the City of Natchez. How about calling a “brain storming” meeting to find out what can be done for Watkins Street and other cemeteries in the county?

I will bet that there are people in this community who would have a barbecue fundraiser, a pancake breakfast or church supper to benefit these cemeteries.

What about an event like Angels on the Bluff at Watkins Street? How about every family that is represented there taking on the labor to keep their plots clean and the grass cut?

Adoptive families, like those started by Don Estes at Natchez City Cemetery, can be found and signed up to take care of plots where there is no family left. Families from out of town can come back for Memorial Day or other reunion events and take a family day to clean their sites.

Much can be done by the community without asking for a government hand out. Doing it within the community would show that Natchez is, indeed, taking change to heart and showing it by being responsible for our own things without using a race card or calling for government assistance. The neat thing is that energy and effort plus some garden tools are the main thing needed to remedy Watkins Street as well as the other 50-plus Adams County cemetery sites needing assistance.

In the recent past we have seen too many times the idea to “throw more money” on something without our citizens taking ownership of the responsibility for a place or an event.

Let’s go forward and change that thinking and teach our children that there is a better way to accomplish things — with some creative thought and everyone working together without personal agendas.

Sharon Goodrich is a retired National Cemetery director and veterans’ advocate.