Group decorates veterans' graves at rural cemetery

Cammi Hodson with the Whitewater Cemetery placing a wreath on the grave of Jesse Walker,born July 2,1833 and died Jan.6,1898,a Confederate Civil War Veteran Saturday morning as part of the Wreaths Across America ceremony.Veterans graves at the historic Whitewater Cemetery were decorated with Wreaths Across America wreaths. There are 13 veterans buried in the Whitewater Cemetery, including four Civil War veterans, two Confederate and two Union soldier.

Most days, the only guardians watching over the Whitewater Cemetery are Grand Mesa, the scattered scrub brush and near-constant wind.

But a few times every year, including at Christmastime, others come to decorate the graves of 13 veterans, including four Civil War veterans.

Bob Franklin and Sue Chapman of the Whitewater Cemetery Association were among a small group Saturday morning who laid wreaths on graves, some dating back to the 1800s.

The cemetery itself is wild — more than 100 headstones and crosses are interspersed across bare dirt and shale, with cactus and desert plants growing throughout. It's not manicured, but the Whitewater Cemetery holds significance for a reason, Chapman said.

"It's our precious history," she said.

Chapman points to the Uncompahgre, where her great-grandfather homesteaded.

"These pioneers came here and they started this for us, and here we are," she said.

Chapman and Franklin have laid wreaths here for the last four years, in partnership with the Patriot Guard and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

For Franklin, holding flags at veterans funerals and decorating graves is easier than talking about how important this is.

"It's about respect," he said. "I do it because I can't speak about it, so I just do. I've never been good at putting things into words."

But he wants folks to remember those who served.

"Don't forget the veterans," Franklin said.

A wreath on the headstone of Civil War veteran Jesse Martin Walker makes it stand out against the surrounding dirt and rocks.

"Don't forget the veterans," Chapman echoed.

Recommended for you