Volunteers Step In To Keep Veterans’ Gravesites Tidy At Paramus, N.J. Cemetery

PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There are grave concerns after burial sites at a New Jersey cemetery have gone neglected.

As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, a rule puts the gravesites’ maintenance in families’ hands – but not everyone can help. Now, a social media post has created a movement to give the sites the respect they deserve.

You can just about make out the words at one gravestone at George Washington Park in Paramus. It belongs to a veteran from World War II, but the veteran’s name is illegible and covered by overgrowth.

It is an unfortunate situation, but the cemetery is only responsible for routine maintenance such as mowing the grass. It is up to the families who bought plots for loved ones to keep individual burial sites clear.

Sadly, some may not be able to do so.

“Driving around, I noticed a lot of military headstones are dirty,” said Roy DeYoung of Maywood, New Jersey.

DeYoung visits his father’s gravesite several times a year. He took it upon himself to clean up other ground-level headstones buried by debris, and posted about how upset he was about it on social media.

His friend Gina Kiely finally responded.

“I saw it and it bothered me,” she said.

So they created the Facebook group Volunteers For Vets Without Voices, seeking volunteers to edge, pull weeds, rake leaves, and most importantly, honor those who served our country.

“I didn’t serve our country, but so many people did, and it’s just a little way we can give back,” Kiely said.

Some cemeteries have perpetual care paid for by families, but in Paramus, they do not. The contracts do not call for pruning the 140,000 markers, so caretakers just do their best – especially if a family reaches out to help with its marker.

“For those that have family member buried here that may not be able to take care of it, we’re kind of stepping up for them,” said Darryl DeMott of Rochelle Park.

The volunteers estimate that there are more than 3,000 veteran graves that need to be cleaned up and uncovered.

The group hopes to make the cleanup a yearly event and get local schools involved. So far, 100 people have signed up to do the work on Saturday, Oct. 14, from 7 a.m. to noon.

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