BAKERSFIELD,Calif. — Greenlawn cemetery is honoring veterans by giving headstones to soldiers in unmarked graves. Currently, there are hundreds of soldiers without headstones on their grounds. The cemetery's plan to change this is called Operation Headstone.
Operation Headstone has been in the works for the past twelve years.
Local veterans in the community have been pushing to have their brothers and sisters receive proper headstones.
Wayne Wright and Bill Potter are two of those veterans who made this possible.
"We are in Memorial weekend, memorial is for the veterans who never came home," said Wright.
Now their mission is almost complete.
Greenlawn has announced it will be placing new grave markers for those soldiers on their grounds.
Already for Memorial Day the cemetery has placed a flag at each grave of a veteran. In total 4,000 veterans are resting there.
"It bothered us as veterans, that we were putting flags on pieces of turf on Veterans Day," Potter said. "Nobody knew that this was a soldier and now thanks to the generosity of Greenlawn there is closure."
According to the President of Greenlawn, Jim LaMar, there are a total of 400 unmarked graves belonging to veterans.
Now, they will be covering the costs of the headstones, which will total around $16,000.
The government will provide the markers, meaning no family of a veteran has to bare the costs.
"Next is many hours of research that we have to go through and pull the files of those individuals," LaMar said. "Then we will turn them over to the local veterans association and they are going to help us order the markers."
The duo adds that they faced many obstacles getting the headstones.
"There was a protocol in place that said we had to get family permission before we touched any plot," Wright said. "And now we are just going to put the headstones down and if we get a complaint we will take it up."
When we asked the group why there were so many unmarked graves, this what they had to say.
"I don’t know why that a family wouldn’t want this," Potter said.
"Family’s get strained or they weren’t fond of their dad, brother, uncle, or mom's sister. It could be economics, there are a million reasons [why]."
On Monday a ceremony will be held for the first unmarked soldier, who will receive their headstone.
"We are coming to a location of a person and we are setting a headstone for his family tomorrow," LaMar said. "Now, everyone that walks by that grave will know that they served and protected our country. Starting today we are going to make sure everyone at Greenlawn is recognized."
LaMar says they are hoping to have Operation Headstone completed by next year and is urging other cemeteries to do the same.