Local veterans working to mark missing graves in Immokalee

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IMMOKALEE, Fla.- A local group of veterans has been working for years to find and mark missing graves at an Immokalee cemetery. Despite their progress, the group’s work is far from over.

“When I first got out here, there was no headstones. We had to find the headstones,” said Isaac Persley from Naples VFW Post 7369.

Persley and a group of veterans are on what they call, the ‘grave detail’ at Lake Trafford Memorial Gardens. They started by looking for six veterans’ graves that had sunk into the ground after almost 60 years of neglect. Instead of six graves, the detail found 92.

“We should, ya know, do this for the veterans that can’t do this,” said Persley.

Throughout the past three years the detail has built and installed white crosses, decorated graves with flags and military medallions, installed a new white fence and raised the American Flag. On Wednesday, they dedicated another 14 headstones.

“I think that we have all done a great job,” said Ken Clesen, Sr. with post 7369.  “Everybody’s pulled together to make it look good and remember the fallen.”

There are veterans from every war buried at Lake Trafford Memorial Gardens. Some of them don’t have any family left, others are indigent. The group says all the veterans deserve a proper burial and they will continue the grave detail as long as it takes.

“They served our country and this is a benefit they earned,” said Edward Swank with post 7369.  “They can’t fight anymore so its up to us living veterans to fight for them.”

The VFW says the project to mark the remaining graves will cost thousands of dollars. Anyone interested in donating can contact them at the Naples Memorial Post 7369, 2727 Bayshore Dr Ste 107-108 Naples, FL 34112 or by calling them at 239-793-7369.

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