Two area volunteers, hard at work trying to bring an abandoned cemetery back to life, received a $1,600 grant for supplies from the Home Depot Foundation to assist in their efforts.
Melanie Jackson has spent countless hours at the Mount Scott Cemetery in Comanche County over the last year and a half. She restored the long-overgrown site with the help of several volunteers, discovering the forgotten grave of Pvt. Ivan Brady, a World War I veteran, along the way.
It was the discovery of that forgotten veteran that got Bruce Dwyer, a veteran himself, involved in the restoration efforts at the gravesite. Seeing how much of her own money Jackson was spending to maintain the site, Dwyer helped her apply for grants from Lowes and Home Depot.
“Melanie and I applied for a $1,000 grant to purchase tools and some miscellaneous equipment to renovate and maintain the cemetery,” Dwyer said. “I was surprised, but gladdened, when Home Depot came back with a higher amount.”
The duo received a $1,600 grant from the Home Depot Foundation, which has invested $375 million into veteran’s causes since 2011.
“Giving back and doing the right thing are two of the core values at The Home Depot. The Home Depot Foundation is proud to give back and help do the right thing within our local communities,” a spokesperson for the Home Depot Foundation said.
Dwyer thanked the foundation for supporting “a veteran and a hard-working, amazing lady.”
Jackson used around $600 of the grant to purchase tools and consumables. She is holding on to the remainder of the grant money until she needs to purchase more equipment.
Search for military records continues
While the grant was appreciated by Jackson and Dwyer, they continue to be frustrated by an inability to acquire a military headstone for Brady, whose grave is marked off by a handful of American flags.
“I have submitted both a request for Brady’s military info and also a VA headstone request. I have also contacted both U.S. Sen. James Inhofe and U.S. Congressman Tom Cole about the inquiry,” Dwyer said. “My fear is that Brady’s military records have been misplaced or lost through a fire or other less than rigorous VA attention in saving old U.S. military records.”
In the summer of 1973, a fire consumed 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Mo. The files of an estimated 80 percent of U.S. Army veterans who were discharged between Nov. 1, 1912, and Jan. 1, 1960, were lost.
“Hope remains,” Dwyer said. “I was a Marine. Most Marines remain thinking of themselves as Marines long after their service is over. That means staying focused on the task at hand. We were taught to work hard and fight hard — no matter the odds.”
The Lawton Constitution also has submitted an electronic records request to the National Personnel Records Center in an attempt to secure Brady’s military records. The Constitution received an automatic reply that stated: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the NPRC is not at its normal operating capacity. During this time we are able to only respond to emergency requests such as burials, medical emergencies, and homeless veterans seeking admittance to a homeless shelter.”