Buried, almost forgotten, finally honored

WICHITA FALLS--They are the unknown, the unfortunate and the brave and they are all buried in an indigent cemetery in Wichita Falls.  This Memorial Day the veterans buried there will finally get deserved honors.

The Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 41, will hold a Memorial Day ceremony honoring 42 veterans who are known to be buried in the Wichita County Cemetery.  Until last week local veterans groups in charge of such ceremonies had no idea so many veterans were buried there.

"I wasn't surprised, I was shocked," said Joel Jimenez, a decorated Vietnam Veteran, and Commander of DAV Chapter 41.  "To see many of the honorable men and women that are out here, veterans, I was really shocked."

Jimenez enlisted the help of his friend and fellow veteran Fred Gentry.  Gentry's company is donating the flags to placed at the graves of those veterans buried, in what in times past was called a Potter's Field or pauper's graveyard.

"I've lived here 53 years.  I knew the cemetery was here.  I never knew of the veterans here," Gentry said.  "This was always an out-of-sight, out-of-mind type cemetery."

Jimenez and Gentry said they've located the graves of 42 veterans buried here.  Some of the graves are flat markers with names, dates of birth and death, and years of service.  Others are nothing more than a simple bronze marker with a name and plot number.  Many of the small bronze markers have settled into the ground and aren't even visible without ripping up grass and dirt.

"We're going to start, first of all by giving them what they've earned and that's a respectful Memorial Day," Jimenez said.

After Monday's ceremony Jimenez said he and other veterans, with support from community members, will begin the search for the graves of other veterans buried in the cemetery long ago.  He said by next Memorial Day he hopes to be able to properly honor all veterans interred at the Wichita County Cemetery.

"We all came home together.  We all need to stay together," Genry said.  "They're not alone.  There's always somebody there for them."