By Patrick Buffett, Fort Lee Public Affairs

FORT LEE, Va. – A neglected Prince George County burial site received some tender loving care from Fort Lee Army Logistics Noncommissioned Officer Academy students Oct. 30.

Twelve members of the Army Leadership Course spent an afternoon raking leaves, picking up trash and sprucing up the gravesites of at least two dozen military veterans laid to rest at Mount Sanai Memorial Park – a five-acre, community-owned cemetery roughly five miles east of Fort Lee.

The project was organized by Sgt. Maria Bisignani, an Army Leadership Course student from the Quartermaster School’s Aerial Delivery and Field Services Department, part of the Combined Arms Support Command. She lives in the Prince George area and noticed the cemetery when she was out on a run.

“I spotted the grave of a military veteran up by the roadway and decided to take a closer look,” Bisignani recalled. “A lot of our previous brothers and sisters in uniform are buried here. The headstones mention World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm. I also noticed the condition of the site … the trash in the woodline and the graves covered with leaves and weeds. It broke my heart.”

She suggested a cleanup project to her classmates and course leaders, and said they “jumped at the chance to help.” The Virginia Department of Transportation agreed to provide some of the needed supplies and trash pickup when the work was completed.

Student participants of the community outreach project included Staff Sgt. Billy Vang, a parachute rigger assigned to Torii Station, Okinawa, Japan. He said helping out the communities that support Army installations is just the right thing to do.

“It’s a partnership … neighbors helping neighbors,” he observed while energetically whisking leaves off a grave slab with his hand. “A lot of service members are laid to rest here, and there is so much military history in this area in general. You can tell there is a lot of pride in the relationship between Fort Lee and its surrounding communities.

“In the case of this cemetery, I’m sure it’s in this condition because of limited funding and community resources, so we should be stepping up to help,” Vang said. “I’m proud to lend a hand, and I’m sure the same could be said for just about any military member on Fort Lee.”

Sgt. Leslie Ames, an Army Leadership Course student from the 824th Quartermaster Company at Fort Bragg, N.C., summed up her feelings about the project in one word – “awesome.”

“I never expected I would be part of something like this when I came up here for school,” she said. “We’re out here helping the community and showing respect to military veterans buried at this site. It’s a great feeling all the way around.”

The Army Leadership Course students left the site feeling proud of the work they had done but wishing they could do more. Bisignani said she hopes other military organizations at Fort Lee will step forward throughout the year to keep the community cemetery clean and the graves of prior service members there appropriately decorated during military holidays.