Lyle Musel works on a new memorial stone at the Village Green. The names of Sisters veterans who have passed will be placed on it. PHOTO PROVIDED
Lyle Musel works on a new memorial stone at the Village Green. The names of Sisters veterans who have passed will be placed on it. PHOTO PROVIDED
There are more than 200 grave sites at Camp Polk Cemetery, five miles north and east of Sisters. Some 40 are the final resting spots of U.S. military veterans. The historic cemetery is not professionally nor civically maintained. It’s not even clear who owns it. When it starts to get overrun with weeds or debris, somebody always steps up unofficially, and freshens it up.

This year the grassroots task fell to young people from YouthBuild, part of Heart of Oregon Corps, a Central Oregon nonprofit engaging local youth ages 16-24. Every year they provide job skills training, education, and leadership development to over 300 local young people who face major barriers to success. They are hoping to empower a generation of young people to believe in themselves and achieve self-sufficiency.

As part of their workforce-training mission, members are expected to give back to the community in public service, such as tackling the cemetery’s condition. And tackle it they did, 33 of them along with mentors and various veterans from VFW Post 8138, American Legion post 86 and Band of Brothers. In all 50 were on hand to do the hard work of keeping the landmark in good repair.

The morning began with Three Sisters Historical Society presenting a short program on the history of Camp Polk. Afterward, the young helpers raked the entire cemetery, removed pine needles and cones, trimmed grass and trees, and picked up any brush or dead limbs throughout the cemetery. All this was done without disturbing or removing anything that had been placed on grave sites.

A large dump trailer was filled with pinecones and needles along with several large trailer loads of limbs and brush. After the cleanup was completed, a short educational session was given by the veterans group to the students in the flagpole area. The youth were informed of flag protocol, including the proper way in which to fold Old Glory.

At each of the 13 folds a reading was recited. After the flag was folded, it was presented to YouthBuild Program Director Tanner Rohne. Two new park benches constructed by the students off-site were donated and placed in the flagpole area.

Following the training session new flags were placed at the graves of 42 veterans in honor of the upcoming Veterans Day remembrance. To complete the day all students and staff we’re given an American flag.