There were plenty of opportunities for cleanup in Hope Mills in the wake of Hurricane Florence, but once she determined most of the needs of the living were met, Mayor Jackie Warner sought help for a group that couldn’t help themselves: the deceased.
When Morgan Sierra, regional director of the Lone Survivor Foundation, reached out to Warner for something her group of volunteers could do, Warner pointed her to two local cemeteries, Adcock and Legion Road.
Warner’s concern for the cemeteries was prompted by a phone call from a resident who had recently buried a family member at the Legion Road cemetery. “He wanted me to check the grave and make sure the cemetery was alright,’’ said Warner, who doesn’t live far from the Legion Road cemetery.
While the grave she was asked to check out was intact, Warner noticed there were numerous limbs down and many of the American flags that decorated graves of veterans were damaged or destroyed.
When Warner contacted town manager Melissa Adams to see if there were specific cleanup needs that weren’t being addressed, Adams suggested someone might want to help at the cemeteries.
After Sierra’s group contacted Warner about helping with cleanup, Warner called her back and said the cemeteries would be a good project if she and her group were interested.
Sierra, a retired military policeman from Fort Bragg, didn’t hesitate to take on the challenge.
“It really boiled down to what we can do for the community,’’ Sierra said. “Being a nonprofit, giving away money is not something we can easily do, but we can give away our time.’’
Sierra posted on Facebook seeking volunteers for the project and got responses from about a dozen people, some military-connected and some Hope Mills residents.
The sight at both cemeteries was similar, she said. There was a lot of tree debris, including limbs, leaves and pine needles.
And of course, there were the American flags. “Every veteran flag was knocked down or tattered beyond belief and needed to be replaced,’’ she said.
A local business sold them 8- by 12-inch American flags at a sharply reduced rate. Sierra estimated they put out 116 new flags. She thinks they’ll need to put out another 40 or 50 flags in coming days that will be provided by a donor who agreed to pay for them.
Sierra said replacing the flags on the graves of veterans is the least her group can do.
“They’ve done so much for us throughout their tenure,’’ she said. “Our creed is never quit on those that never quit on us. If it’s something as simple as replacing a flag and saying, ‘We honor you and your sacrifices,’ then that’s our responsibility.’’
Sierra said if there are other cemeteries in Fayetteville and the surrounding area that would like to replace flags damaged by the hurricane, her group will be glad to help out.
“If somebody is willing to donate flags, I’m willing to go there with my group of volunteers,” she said, “We will continue placing flags where we can.”