Veterans

October 21, 2013

Group wants grass replanted at military cemetery

A group of veterans, relatives of buried soldiers and others are continuing their efforts to convince the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to replant grass a military cemetery in West Texas.

The landscape of the Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, Texas, reflects that found in the rest of the city. As part of drastic measures to stabilize its water supply, El Paso in the last two decades has ripped up grass from many public places, installing rock and cactus gardens and encouraging residents to do the same in their homes.

The Fort Bliss National Cemetery in 2007 was transformed by a $4.2 million xeriscaping project, which incorporates gravel and rock designs with plants that are accustomed to the dry climate.

Earlier this year, the cemetery received the Texas Environmental Excellence Award for saving about $400,000 a year in reduced water costs, labor fertilizer and pesticides.

But the El Paso Times reported that 68-year-old veteran Frank Winslett began a campaign six weeks ago to pressure federal officials to replant grass at the cemetery.

Winslett says the cemetery would look better with grass and would allow family members to kneel down next to their relatives’ graves and honor their loved ones the same way it is done at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

It looks like a potter’s field, it looks like crap, Winslett said. The veterans have sacrificed so much, they don’t deserve to be treated with this much disrespect.

Fort Bliss National Cemetery officials declined to comment.

It’s trashy and the worse national cemetery in the nation, said Gary Hamilton, who was visiting his father’s grave Oct. 19. It just looks like a desert.

Richard Cerros, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, said the El Paso Democratic congressman supports the efforts to bring grass back to the cemetery. It may cost $11 million to $14 million to transform the landscape and to maintain it for one year, Cerros said. AP




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