Veterans cemetery receives repairs, funding

Gov. Parris N. Glendening visited a nearly transformed Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery yesterday, a month after he ordered emergency repairs to more than 1,000 grassless, eroding graves that were mired in weeds, some sinking in mud.

When he arrived yesterday afternoon at the cemetery in Baltimore County, the governor found most of the weeds gone from a 3-acre area, grass seed planted - though not yet sprouted - and the cracked, rust-colored mud covered with a rich, brown soil topped with straw.


"It appears to be a significant improvement," said Glendening after walking through the area in rubber boots and viewing photographs taken of the site before work began.

The condition of the graves - where veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam and their spouses are buried - was reported in The Sun May 24 after relatives complained. The governor ordered the emergency repairs after reading the article while on a trade mission in Europe.


Yesterday, Glendening, accompanied by state Veterans Secretary Thomas B. Bratten Jr., said the deteriorating conditions "must have torn families apart."

He knelt down before the grave of Elmer A. Meisenhalder Jr., a Vietnam veteran who died last December.

Noting a recent Father's Day decoration placed at the gravestone, the governor told Veterans Affairs officials who oversee the cemetery, "You've got to make sure it never happens again. The family had to walk through the mud to put this here."

Acknowledging that the busy cemetery buries more than 1,300 veterans and their spouses a year, he said he would approve a request for $200,000 to catch up on a backlog of placing permanent headstones on graves.

After the governor's brief tour, Bratten told him, "Sorry you had to come out in these conditions. Next time you come out, there'll be green grass."

Glendening also asked Veterans Affairs officials to inspect Maryland's four other state-run veterans cemeteries to make sure they are in good condition.

Chris Hobbs, assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs, told the governor part of the problem at Garrison Forest, in the Owings Mills area of Baltimore County, is understaffing, created by low salaries offered to grounds workers in a tight job market.

She said, however, salaries will be increased July 1 and some of the work will be contracted out.


On June 8, the state awarded the emergency contract for $14,250 to the Brickman Group Limited, a landscaping contractor, to make the repairs. Work began June 12.

Yesterday, several hours before the governor's arrival, workers sprayed a rich brown-colored soil mixture from a large hose over the area.

Nearby, machinery flattened a deeply rutted path through the middle of the cemetery.

Workers pried up sunken headstones, shoveling new soil underneath. Graves that had gone askew and sunk were anchored in fresh soil and straightened in orderly formations.

A long measuring tape was laid across a line of gravestones to help workers straighten them.

Fifty-pound bags of grass seed also awaited planting, just hours before the governor's visit.


Hobbs said the contractor should finish the job by today by laying straw down and watering the areas.

She said grass should be showing in about 30 days.