Beautification project has started at Florence National Cemetery

August 11, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. – Improvements are in the works for Florence National Cemetery for both the new and the historic sections, with one project set to include almost the entire new section.

Since it was established, the new section of the cemetery has relied on well water for irrigation. Iron rich well water. And many of the very porous marble markers are stained iron orange.

“Last year we went from well water to city water. Yay!” said Carolyn Howard, director of Florence National Cemetery. ” The headstones that were set late September to date are not impacted by orange stains. They’re good. It’s all the headstones prior to it.”

Howard said any number of possible solutions have been tried to lighten or remove the stains – all unsuccessfully.

Now all of the affected stones, more than 5,000 of them in sections 2-20, are set to be replaced.

“It’s a big project, and we’re really excited,” Howard said. “It’s something our veterans and their loved ones deserve.”

“There are checks and balances in place to where the replacement headstone will be laid on site in front of the old headstone,” Howard said. “They will be checked by our team members to make sure the inscription is the same as what is already there. When that is done, the contractor who is replacing the headstones will remove the old one, immediately replace the new one and then destroy the old one.

“The plan is to complete the project by the end of the calendar year.”

Replacement will start with the more recent burials and work back in time, she said.

Markers in the historic section are unaffected by the stains and have only the marks made by age upon them, she said.

The current and most obvious renovation is two to four weeks away from completion and has been in the works for several weeks, Howard said.

“The roads were in dire need of repair,” Howard said of work to remove and replace the road into the historic section.

Currently that section is open only to foot traffic while crews lay down a roadbed and prepare to pave the road, the parking area and the turnaround at the flag pole.

Turf replacement in the historic section also is on the to-do list.

“We had problem with ground pearls and grass,” Howard said. “We reached out to Clemson Extension. They came and identified the problem. Ground pearls are tricky. There is no known pesticide that will kill them. They recommended we try a different kind of grass. Ground pearls seem to like centipede grass the most.”

Howard said the cemetery replaced centipede with a different type of grass less loved by the subterranean insect.

“The plan is to award a contract to do the rest of the historic side with this kind of grass,” Howard said.

Howard said that in 2019 and 2020, the cemetery plans to replace some of the turf in the newer section as well.

“These soldiers, they knew the price (of serving), and they willingly made that sacrifice,” Howard said. “Many of them did not come home. Some did come home. You can’t put a price on that. They gave so much to us, they deserve the best we can give. The National Cemetery Administration agrees.

“Once that’s done, we’ll have a beautiful site for our soldiers.”

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