JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--"Deplorable" and "disappointing." That is how some former and active duty military members described the Sunset Memorial Cemetery on Jacksonville's Northwest side.
It is a story First Coast News has covered for just over a year.
Grave sites are covered in thick brush along with headstones toppled over. Some of the headstones are buried.
"If you look in here," John Dorman, 25, of Jacksonville said as he walked over to what looked like a hole in the ground at a grave site, "You can kind of see the wooden boxes."
There were multiple instances of what appeared to be open graves.
"In some cases," Dorman explained. "It looks like caskets exposed."
United States Navy Corpsman, John Dorman, has family buried at the cemetery.
"That's a veteran's grave right in there," Dorman said as he walked through the overgrown area of the cemetery.
Dorman said he has seen headstones of numerous veterans, some of which have served in World Wars I and/or II.
"To think that they gave that much for their country and this is how they are in the end?" Dorman asked.
Some of the grave sites are difficult to reach on foot because of thick plants.
"It makes me feel upset that no one seems to care about them," Dorman said.
First Coast News aired a series of stories one year ago detailing the conditions. One year later, things don't appear to have changed.
Last year, City spokesperson David DeCamp, told FCN that the City of Jacksonville doesn't technically own the cemetery, but agreed to take care of it in 1997.
At that time DeCamp also stated the city will still mow the lawns and blow leaves, but is not responsible for fixing broken tombstones or filling in open graves. DeCamp added that tombstones are ultimately the family's responsibility.
Monday, city spokesperson, Debbie Delgado told First Coast News that was still the case and that the they city continues maintenance per the limited agreement.
The Jacksonville National Cemetery's Director, Gregory Whitney, told FCN on Monday, the only options families have is to pay for disinterment and transportation. Whitney said families of veterans will be able to bury their veteran at the Jacksonville National Cemetery absolutely free.
On Monday, Don Vilanueva, spokesperson for the Department of Veteran's Affairs of Jacksonville told FCN, the cemeteries are not linked to the VA. He pointed to a myriad of resources available for veterans and their families via the City of Jacksonville's Veteran's website.
Also on Monday, the Jacksonville National Cemetery's Director, Gregory Whitney, told FCN, families of veterans have only one option. The only options families have is to pay for disinterment and transportation from Sunset Memorial Cemetery.
Whitney said families of veterans will be able to bury their veteran at the Jacksonville National Cemetery absolutely free.
Resources are available for veterans and their families through the City of Jacksonville's Military Affairs and Veteran's Services website.
First Coast News