Military Matters: Remembering The 'Lost' Villages of Fort Drum
Every year, in cemeteries across the country, volunteers spruce up veterans' grave sites ahead of Memorial Day.
These volunteers just happen to be working in a cemetery on Fort Drum.
"We have 13 historic cemeteries that were part of the villages that used to be on Fort Drum," said Heather Wagner of Fort Drum Public Works.
Those villages ceased to exist when the installation - then called Pine Camp - was expanded to its current boundaries in the early 40s.
The 550 families who lived in and around them were forced to relocate.
In most cases, their cemeteries are all that remained -the last reminders of the lost villages of Fort Drum.
"Fort Drum is a very good caretaker of the cemeteries," said Wagner.
They're in active training areas, meaning they're off limits unless you get specific permission to visit.
On Memorial Day though, they're opened to the public so families of the veterans buried there can pay their respects.
This year, thanks to these Department of Defense civilians from Fort Drum's Leaders Program and other groups of volunteers, those families will find new granite and bronze markers by every veteran's grave.
"This is making them theft proof and it will honor our veterans as long as their monuments stay up in these cemeteries too," said Wagner.
"It lets the families know we haven't forgotten our fallen brothers and sisters from past. A hundred years from now, as an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, I hope that we will still be remembered in that time to come," said Brian O'Connor of the Leaders Program.
Thanks to these cemeteries, the villages that died to make Fort Drum what it is today won't be forgotten either.