VFW dedicates restored veterans cemetery in Immokalee

Posted at 6:40 PM, Nov 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-11 06:45:41-05

The graves of about 90 veterans that had long been abandoned have been restored to dignity, thanks to the efforts of local VFW posts from Naples and Golden Gate.

Flags and flowers decorate many of the gravestones at Lake Trafford Memorial Gardens today. But five years ago, when someone from the VFW Post in Fort Myers Beach called Post 7369 in Naples looking for a veterans grave there, it was a much different sight.

"A lot of the graves, you couldn't find," said Edward Swank of VFW Post 7369. "It was just overgrown."

He said that many headstones were covered not just by weeds, but by soil.

Swank got help from Collier County employees in identifying who was buried where, and making the cemetery look respectable.

Photos: Dedication of restored veteran gravesites in Immokalee

At a ceremony dedicating the restored grave sites Thursday, VFW members were joined by an ROTC color guard and members of the community in paying tribute to the servicemen whose graves had long been forgotten, but are now remembered.

"These guys were abandoned," said Ed Messer of VFW Post 7369. "They wouldn't have left us alone. So we're here to make sure they get the dignity they deserve."

A Collier County spokesman told Fox 4 that heavy summer rains likely saturated the soft earth at the cemetery very muddy, causing the headstones to sink in.