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Veterans Affairs enforcing cemetery rules

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Efforts are underway to get the Guam Veterans Cemetery in tip-top shape. With a new administration committed to restoring the dignity of the hallowed ground, residents are being warned about the strict enforcement of the cemetery rules.

"We're trying to enforce the rules. It's going to be a hue and an outcry but I believe this is the right thing to do. We want to restore the Veterans Cemetery to be a veterans cemetery not a public cemetery, a veterans cemetery," said John Unpingco. The Guam Veterans Affairs Office Administrator is determined to change the landscape of the Veterans Cemetery in Piti and since taking over, the changes have already become very noticeable.

The unkempt grass is now mowed regularly while once overflowing trash bins and trash littered around the cemetery grounds have been discarded. And the once tattered flags that fly high over the cemetery entrance have been replaced. Unpingco isn't stopping there though, as he said, "I'm gonna get much flack for this, but I'm ready for it. I believe that there are people out there who are rules abiding citizens who will understand what we're trying to do and the veterans cemetery has gone out of control.

Unpingco is referring to the additional decorations and changes residents have done on their own that have transformed the Veterans Cemetery gravestones and crypts. "This is in term of putting candle holders. They drill into the covers of the crypts and sometimes they puncture the covers of the crypts so a noxious odor escapes," he said.

"Permanent plantings, statutes, vigil lights, glass objects, food of any kind, we even see cans of unopened coke and fruits there, those will be removed and other decorative items like toys, balloons, photos especially. Those are taped onto the crypts. Those will be removed," Unpingco added.

Residents have until May 9 to clean up their loved ones crypt or burial site and are advised that only fresh or silk flowers will be allowed as everything else will be removed.

Unpingco adds the cemetery main entrance gates will also be closed after hours to prevent late night visitors and skateboarders who have use the hill in front of the chapel as a skate park, saying, "There's a certain solemnity because that's hallowed ground."

"May 9 we will go section by section of the cemetery clear the cemetery and I ask all residents if you have left memorabilia or other things out there that you want back, come and get it now. Between now and May 9 is the timeframe for you to act, please don't pass up this opportunity," he said.

In about six years, Veterans Cemetery will be filled to capacity. In anticipation of that, the Veterans Office is working on obtaining a grant that would fund the necessary studies to either expand the cemetery in Piti or find a new location to bury the island's fallen soldiers and veterans.

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