'They Made It Easier For Me To serve And Knocked Down So Many Barriers,' Spring Valley NAACP President SaysBy Tony Aiello

WEST NYACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — On a steep hillside in the shadow of the Palisades Center Mall, new headstones mark the graves of Black men who fought for the Union in the Civil War.

The headstones replace markers that were damaged or had disappeared over the years from Mount Moor, an African American cemetery dating to 1849.

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“They made sacrifices, you know? I served in Vietnam. They made it easier for me to serve and knocked down so many barriers,” Spring Valley NAACP President Willie Trotman told CBS2’s Tony Aiello. “So it’s important to keep their memories alive.”

Reenactors laid tributes on Memorial Day at one of the new headstones.

Civil War buff William Stump worked with Mount Moor to obtain federal funding to pay for the markers.

“Just to insure that these stories are told for generations to come, that we know their sacrifice and everything they did for our country,” he told Aiello.

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Four of the 23 Black Civil War veterans buried there were born enslaved, including William Henry Myers.

“To think that there were people that were born as slaves but they fought for freedom. They fought for our freedom in the Civil War,” said Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann.

“God bless their souls,” another visitor added.

There is an effort in Rockland County to preserve the hallowed ground and tell the stories of those buried there, including Korean War veteran Henry William Cook Jr., who died in combat at age 20.

“It’s actually really touching because I have a 16-year-old at home. So just to think, it’s a four-year difference between my uncle’s passing and my son, it’s kind of heart wrenching,” his niece, Danielle Cook, said.

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It was a day to remember the service and the sacrifice.

Tony Aiello