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Cleanup of Cemetary Underway

Date Posted: 1999-05-14

Military and civilian volunteers armed with weed-eaters, lawn mowers, rakes, mosquito repellent and lots of enthusiasm met recently at the Tomari International Cemetery in Naha for the first scheduled monthly cleanup sponsored by VFW Post 9723. “Our next priority will be to do some basic cleaning work,” cleanup project chairman Jerry Anderson said. “I’m working on getting the right color and type of paint so we can paint the crosses. When I get what we need I’ll ask everyone to lay down their tools and bring two paint brushes instead.” High school students, active duty Marines, sailors, Air Force and Army personnel, retirees, everyone is getting involved. Young Marines were there, families with children came to help. The U.S. Military has conducted Memorial Day Services at the Tomari Cemetery annually, several of which Anderson attended. Impressed with how nice the cemetery looked, Anderson was disappointed to find the grass had grown several feet high and the grounds were covered with bags of trash and litter when he drove past the site several months later. He realized action must be taken. “This problem was presented to the members of my VFW Post and the decision was made to go out to the foreign community on Okinawa and ask for help to take care of the cemetery. The response from the community has been magnificent,” said Anderson. “I had always assumed that someone was responsible for the care and routine maintenance of this historical site. It was obvious that my assumption was false.” At the next scheduled VFW Post meeting the matter was discussed at length. Several post members said the military was responsible, others thought that it was the responsibility of Naha City. Since no one knew, it was decided the post would ask for the community to support the effort. The result was overwhelming, with no less than 150 people pitching in during the past two months. The historical site dates back as far as 1816 when British seaman William Hares was buried in its grounds. In 1853 Commodore Matthew Perry was granted this small piece of land to be used as a burial site for any member of his crew who died while in Okinawa. There are also a lot of rumors concerning possible burials at the cemetery. “According to military officials who were contacted about the matter, it will take some time and several meetings to find out the facts,” said Anderson. “But when we do, we will sure let everyone know.” For information concerning future cleanup dates, e-mail Kelly Anderson at insurance@momo2000.com or call 899-1851.

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