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  Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, August 07, 2014

Veterans' grave project chronicles those who served

This article is provided by the Ringgold County Veteran Affairs Commission, explaining the Ringgold County Veterans Cemetery Project.

This Ringgold County Veterans Cemetery Project began simply enough.

The newly appointed Ringgold County Veteran Affairs Commission read the requirement in Iowa Code section 35B.19 to maintain burial records "...alphabetically and by description of location in the cemetery where the veteran is buried" and in 35B. 16 to "...furnish an appropriate marker...for the grave of each veteran...for memorial purposes...", and interpreted the requirements to be a single list identifying every veteran buried in every cemetery in Ringgold County with an appropriate grave marker provided for the grave of every documented veteran.

A single list did not exist, though between the Armed Forces Grave Record (AFGs) and lists for the historical society it appeared one could be made, but as the project went along, like Mopsy it grew. It soon became obvious the problem was far larger than simply merging old lists into a single new one.

The AFGRs on file did not include any veteran who had died prior to the legislative standup of the AFGR requirement (1946), so those veterans' names (the Civil War veterans as a group) could only be found on older lists generated under the auspices of the historical society (who did a great job), various listings from the local veterans' organizations from different times for different reasons, the IAGenWeb Ringgold County Cemetery Project, and the original WPA Grave Records Project from 1935-1939, which transcribed all headstones in all cemeteries in Ringgold County during the period.

The lists were similar but not the same - and the process of merging the various lists into a single list nearly doubled the number of "known" veteran buried in the county.

AFGRs were completed for each name on the list for which an AFGR was not already on file after independent (documentary) corroboration as a veteran; the Master List of AFGRs on file was then used to verify that each veteran had an appropriate grave marker.

An appropriate grave marker...for the grave of each veteran made a physical verification of marker installation necessary (if only because there were twice as many veterans as previously believe), and a cemetery-by-cemetery, stone-by-stone walk through inventory of every name on the list identified still more names based on a grave service marker, gravestone information, and/or government furnished gravestone of VA marker. 40 of the 49 known existing cemeteries include veterans, and after verification, each new name added to the master list required a return trip to the appropriate cemetery.

As each cemetery was completed, the new AFGRs/cemetery listing was sent to the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that all verified deceased veterans were included in the state database maintained at Camp Dodge.

The Master List was updated with the new names, but an "appropriate grave marker" placed at a grave does not validate veterans' status, and in some cases documentary corroboration as a veteran is not readily available - generating an "unable to verify list" which continues to be researched. This list along with all other veteran cemetery information is available at the Veteran Affairs Office located on the ground floor of the courthouse.

The overall master alphabetical list has also been broken out by individual cemetery including map location not only within the cemetery but directions on how to get to each of the cemeteries. Some are not as easy to find as Rose Hill. Each cemetery also has the veteran information available in an easy read format for Memorial Day activities should any individual/organization so desire.

With the main portion of this phase completed, we are getting ready to embark on the next phase of the veterans cemetery project which will be a gravestone photo of each grave, starting with the older ones (Civil War through World War II) first, in order to assess the condition o the gravestones, and prioritize further projects. This portion of the project, along with developing policy, etc., will be done in connection with the various cemetery boards, townships, and board of supervisors.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2014

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