Veterans clean up the organ graveyard and place flags in honor of Memorial Day

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LAS CRUCES – Memorial Day is a time to honor veterans, especially those who have died and given their lives to protect the United States

Military Women of the Southwest, a veteran women’s organization, held a cleanup Saturday at Slumbering Mountain Cemetery in the town of Organ off the US 70 in honor of the National Day.

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Karen Woods, president of Military Women of the Southwest and chair of the City of Las Cruces Veterans Advisory Council, led the effort Saturday. She explained that the organ cemetery is one of many cemeteries in the area without a regular grave keeper, although the area’s Foreign Wars Veterans Station has done work there in the past.

Veterans Treatment Court program consultant and evaluator Rory Rank helps clean up Slumbering Mountain Cemetery in Organ, NM, along with other veterans.  Parts of the small cemetery, where many veterans are buried, had fallen into disrepair.

Slumbering Mountain Cemetery does not necessarily have a majority of veterans, but there are several fairly old veterans’ graves; Woods said a few Civil War veterans were buried there.

“The records are very – you really have to go get them. And I’m working with a lady from the Genealogical Society who’s done some work on that and it’s very interesting,” Woods said. there’s probably a Union soldier out there who never had a headstone.”

A grave is pictured at Slumbering Mountain Cemetery in Organ, NM before Third Judicial District Court Veterans Treatment Court program participants helped clean up the cemetery - parts of which had fallen into disrepair - on Saturday May 29, 2021.

She added that they were trying to complete the paperwork to rectify the missing headstone.

The nine current participants in the Third Judicial District Court’s Veterans Treatment Program assisted in the cleanup on Saturday. The VTC is a comprehensive program that helps veterans who have legal issues and are struggling with substance abuse.

Woods estimated the cemetery to be between a half and a full acre. The VTC participants met at Renoo’s Thai Time around 9 a.m. this weekend and followed Woods to the cemetery near the bend on Heavenly Lane. It took about three to four hours to complete the cleanup and replace the flags at the venues.

A sign stands near the entrance to Slumbering Mountain Cemetery in Organ, NM Third Judicial District Court Veterans Treatment Program participants participated in a cemetery cleanup on Saturday, May 29, 2021.

“It’s very special. We need to acknowledge our history. It’s part of our history too, with all the people we buried in some of these cemeteries. And it’s basically the right thing to do,” Woods said. “To me, it’s just the right thing to do for our veterans. We care for each other – and not just when they live, but when they’re gone to different and better places.

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Veterans help clean up Slumbering Mountain Cemetery in Organ, NM on May 29, 2021, as part of the Third Judicial District Court's Veterans Treatment Program.  The program helps struggling veterans avoid jail time while providing support services.

The Vietnam Veterans of America host will hold a wreath ceremony Sunday morning at St. Joseph Cemetery across from St. Genevieve Catholic Church. The opening service is from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and Chaplain Lawrence Orvis, a Vietnam veteran, will officiate. The event will feature several speakers and a Marine Corps Honor Guard will perform a 21-gun salute.

Veterans help clean up Slumbering Mountain Cemetery in Organ, NM on May 29, 2021. The cleanup effort was led by participants of the Third Judicial District Court's Veterans Treatment Program, which helps rehabilitate veterans struggling with drug addiction and other issues.

Additionally, Southwest Military Women will honor veterans who have chosen to be cremated by placing flag vases at all area columbariums. Organizations in the area ensured that all deceased veterans had a flag for Memorial Day.

Leah Romero is the Trending Reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News and can be reached at 575-418-3442, [email protected] or @rromero_leah on Twitter.

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