ASHDOWN, Ark. — Walking through a cemetery is like flipping through a history book. Each gravesite tells the story of who lies below, but some of the plots are missing an important chapter.
Footstones etched with the names and service of veterans sometimes don’t make it to their gravesites. Over time, they pile up in funeral homes and are often forgotten about, but a group of men in Ashdown is making sure the stones get to their final resting place.
Ashdown Lodge 581 Secretary Charles Neff and Ashdown Lodge 581 Worshipful Master Donald White are veterans themselves and are now serving their community as part of the Masonic Lodge.
When they heard the funeral home nearby had a stack of footstones, some that had been there almost three decades, they knew they had to step in.
“He had several foot markers there for veterans that the families for whatever reason didn’t come back and pick them up,” Neff said.
“You can’t throw history away and this is part of history,” White added.
The men decided their group needed to help step in and make sure those who served were properly honored.
“We sat up here and presented it to our members of this lodge and overwhelmingly they all stood up and said, ‘Let’s do this, let’s do this,'” Neff said.
Neff and White wrote down the names on each stone and researched where they were buried.
“You have to go to the cemetery and walk it out to find them,” Neff explained of the process.
Then started the process of putting them into the ground.
“Some of the markers, they want them even with the turf so when they mow, they can mow over them, and some of them want them raised a little bit,” Neff said.
As these veterans place the stones of their fallen brothers and sisters, it brings back memories of their time in uniform.
“You read on the tombstone the war that they were in and what they endured, what they went through. Some made it home, some didn’t,” White said. “It’s like a feeling inside of you. We’re doing something for them as return for what they have done for us.”
With each foot marker, they leave a note letting whoever passes by know this person’s service does not go unrecognized.
“We want to respect them, praise them and let the families know that they’re not forgotten, and we will not forget them,” White said.
“That’s the least we can do,” Neff added.
They placed 11 footstones and have one left. They traveled as far as Oklahoma to make sure these veterans got the recognition they deserve.