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Friday, October 18, 2013 - 7:04pm
El Paso TX (KDBC) — A group of local veterans have formed the group " Veterans for the Green" in hopes of raising funds to fix what they call unacceptable conditions at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery.
Local veteran Frank Winslett is in tears when he talks about the Fort Bliss National Cemetery where many of his fellow soldiers are buried.
"If a veteran is carried back home or he walks back home on his own, they deserve the honor and the respect of being buried in a state that has some dignity, that has something that they have fought for, something they have died for. That's my opinion and I'm a veteran," said Winslett.
He's angry that cemetery officials removed the grass years ago and says he speaks on behalf of other veterans that want the grass back.
"It's like a popper's field, its horrible out there. Go take a look," said Winslett.
He says the cemetery is a disgrace to the men who lay there, remembered by the names on their tombstones, and for their family members who visit their graves.
"Theres no place to sit. There's no place to kneel. You can't go beside your loved one and be there for a few moments," said Winslett. Dirt was getting in their eyes and their mouths. It was horrible."
Saturday he and his supporters will protest across the street from the Fred Wilson cemetery entrance at 10:00am.
"Protesting at the cemetery, is a disgrace and its disrespectful to the people that are buried here," said Fort Bliss National Cemetery Direct Andrew Matthews.
Matthews says removing the grass in 2006 was necessary.
"Before they removed the turf, it was not lush green grass. We're in El Paso. It gets about eight inches of rain a year if we're lucky. The turf was yellow dying weeds," said Matthews.
With El Paso's water restrictions, the available amount was just not enough to keep the conditions of the cemetery worthy of a national shrine, according to Matthews.
"The veterans that are protesting do not represent all the veterans that live in El Paso," said Matthews.
But Winslett believes Saturday is his chance to prove his point: cemeteries are not just for the dead, they are for the living.