MONROE, La. (KNOE) - What started off as an Independence Day cleanup turned into a shocking discovery for Whitney Sutherland.
Several veteran headstones were found lying in a pile near other grave sites. (SOURCE: KNOE)
For the past year, she’s taken pride is maintaining grave sites, a hobby of hers. Unfortunately, what she saw on the Fourth of July did more than upset her.
She saw a displaced pile of veteran tombstones.
"We disrespected their memorials by piling them up and casting them to the side," says Whitney Sutherland, Monroe resident.
She was in the middle of cleaning and stumbled upon the pile.
"I was walking around looking for other graves to see what I could clean later on, and then I wandered upon a pile of headstones that are military headstones. I was astounded."
Several headstones, piled up and out of place - the city says there are multiple factors.
"We try to do as much as we can to keep them up," says Larry Marshall, cemetery superintendent.
"We've got so many circumstances that come through there other than that. We're constantly in a cycle of going back and forth."
Tom Janway says ground settlement, tree limbs, and vandalism are possible reasons the headstones were displaced.
"They were probably knocked down, and they were placed there so they could be put back in the proper place," says Janway, public works director.
According to Marshall, tree limbs were the culprit in this case.
"A tree actually grew up in the graves and knocked those stones over," Marshall says.
Sutherland says she isn’t buying any of those possibilities.
"They're incredibly heavy, so I don't particularly agree with the vandalism especially since it looks like they were set there on purpose in a pile," Sutherland says.
As for the city, they say they're trying their best to maintain all headstones, but Sutherland wants results not attempts.
"I'd like to see them reset, and if there are people who have been moved, their graves relocated, then properly dispose of the headstones. But if they're still out here, reset their headstones so that we can clean them and give them the memorial they deserve," Sutherland says.
Janway says if the tombstones can be traced back to their exact location, they will be put back.
If not, they depend on the family to locate the original location.
To put that into perspective - over sixty percent of the cemetery is unplatted, meaning there are no designated locations for those plots.