Authorities at a Mississippi military cemetery fear that dozens of veterans may lie forgotten in unmarked graves, and they are asking for the public’s help identifying the remains, NPR reports.
Two coffins and other possible grave sites were found in the Vicksburg National Military Cemetery for veterans of World War I, World War II and Korean War. There have been only about 100 burials since the cemetery was mostly closed to those without reserved plots in 1961.
Park historian Terry Winschel told WLBT-TV why it is so important to try to identify the graves. “We take our charge of stewardship very seriously, and so when we find a grave that was not recorded, unmarked, we take this a charge to try to identify who this soul is so their resting place is properly marked.”
Workers preparing a grave for a WWII vet first discovered a buried coffin without a marker in November, and then one other. No cemetery records or archives have turned up that identify the remains.
Workers have been using ground-penetrating radar to help discover more graves, and they think may have 50 or more. Vicksburg National Military Park Superintendent Michael Madell said they want respect the dead by not physically disturbing their remains.
NPR reports that 20 of the graves were marked with small white blocks of granite similar to what is used for the graves of unknown soldiers, but these had no identifying numbers. And, the small markers were probably set flush with the ground years ago and had been buried over time, allowing grass to grow over them.
“We apologize to these individuals and their families,” Madell said, vowing to use all available resources to identify the graves.[via NPR and WLBT-TV]