Veterans Fight to Fix Run-Down Mare Island Cemetery

VALLEJO -- The Mare Island Naval Cemetery is the oldest military cemetery on the west coast.

It's where Medal of Honor recipients and other veterans are laid to rest, but it doesn't look that way. The cemetery is in bad shape and in need of a serious fix.

"I've gone through cemeteries in Normandy, the Philippines-- they're immaculate," Army veteran Nestor Aliga said. "My god, the oldest military cemetery on the west coast, and this is how we treat these veterans?"

The cemetery is more than 150 years old, and it's falling apart.

Crooked headstones are sinking into the soil. Some are propped up only by pieces of wood. Names of fallen heroes have been worn away by time.

Other headstones are shattered.

"The cement is gone. Where it's been patched has not held. The bricks were originally there and they're just starting to fall apart," Navy veteran Bob Wyllie said. "I'm proud to have served in the military. And when I see that cemetery, and the way the people that are interned there are ignored and not respected, it bothers the hell out of me."

So Wyllie and Aliga, along with Navy Captain Ralph Parrott, decided to take action.

"It came to a point where we said the best thing is to get legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate and House to make the VA take it back," Wyllie said.

Their persistence is paying off.

"It concerns me when we don't honor our veterans because they've given their all for us," Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan said at a recent city council meeting.

Wyllie spoke to the Vallejo City Council, where they voted to support transferring the cemetery to the VA. In April, California Congressman Mike Thompson introduced legislation that would place the VA in control of the cemetery and thanked Aliga and Parrott for their efforts.

On May 17, after months of lobbying, Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a complimentary bill in the Senate. Sen. Kamala Harris is co-sponsoring.

"The U.S. government has clearly stated its obligations to veterans in terms of their resting place. Let’s just make it right," Wyllie said.

For these tireless veterans, making things right means taking a stand -- sacrificing their time and energy for those who sacrificed their lives.

"You can ask any veteran and we all feel the same way," Wyllie said. "That's not what these veterans fought and served for."

Wyllie and Aliga have created a petition to urge Congress to pass the legislation.