Volunteer event for historic Naval cemetery 'an overwhelming success'

Matt Saintsing
September 15, 2017 - 1:29 pm

(Courtesy/ Solano Volunteers)

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Dozens of volunteers gave the historic Mare Island Naval Cemetery a fresh look during a National Day of Service on Sept. 11.

The grassroots collaborative effort between The Friends of the Historic Mare Island Naval Cemetery & Restoration Committee, volunteers of Solano County, the City of Vallejo, and others was an overwhelming success, says Tina Chechourka, a volunteer coordinator for Solano County.

Chechourka began the effort to organize a volunteer event after reading reporting from Connecting Vets.“The volunteers showed up ready to work, and work they did.”

Despite the cemetery’s status as a historic landmark, which limits the type of repairs that can be done, like replacing headstones, more than 300 large bags of debris was hauled away by the City of Vallejo.

Chechourka says the day’s success would not have been possible without the participation of the city. “It was a give-back day, all the way around.”

Myrna Hayes, the president of the Mare Island Heritage foundation, was on site working hand-in-hand with the volunteers. Among the efforts to clean up the neglected cemetery black acacia trimmings were collected and taken to the Oakland zoo to feed giraffes and elephants—a delicacy for them.

(Courtesy/ Solano Volunteers)

In addition to removing debris, for the first time in nine years a US flag was flown on the cemetery’s flagpole, and remained at half-mast in observance of Sept. 11th. The new American and POW/MIA flags, supplied by Vallejo, replaced ones that were tattered, torn, and forgotten.

Volunteers came from all over Northern California including a corporate volunteer group of 12 from a Phillips 66 refinery, located inMartinez, Calif.

Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan stood shoulder to shoulder with volunteers who started gathering at 7:30am on the 11th and worked until around 1:45pm, according to Chechourka. After the volunteers left, Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership and volunteers of Solano County staff stayed and completed the clean-up.

“Doing what we could as volunteers, we made a difference,” says Chechoruka. “We made a difference in showing the care and love we have for this historical location.”

But this day isn’t just going to one hit-and-run, says Chechourka. “We’re going to have an ongoing project, because there is still some more work to be done.” Chechoruka will pool together eight to 10 volunteers to offer them the opportunity to clean the cemetery once a month.

Future volunteers can coordinate with Myrna Hayes, or visit www.solanovolunteers.org.

Going forward, the City of Vallejo has until the end of September to submit a proposal to the DoD that would allow innovative readiness training (IRT) teams to provide maintenance and preservation of the cemetery, which could include replacing grave markers.

Chechourka says the city is committed as a grant writer is currently working on the proposal.