Once-forgotten Black cemetery included in Wreaths Across America in New Bern
On Saturday, the graves of thousands of veterans in eastern North Carolina will be adorned with wreaths ahead of the holiday season.
Kevin Yates with Wreaths Across America New Bern said they came close to having enough wreaths for every one of the 6,773 veterans buried in the New Bern National Cemetery but fell about 1,200 short.
Still, he said, “Out of the 12 years we have been participating in Wreaths Across America, this is the second-highest number of wreaths that we’ve ever sponsored.”
Even amid rising inflation, high energy prices and other financial pressures many are feeling.
There has only been one in those dozen years which every single veteran buried in the cemetery was honored with a wreath, and Yates said that was another tough one for eastern North Carolina.
“We did it in 2018, which is interesting because that was the year of (Hurricane) Florence,” yates explained, “And with everything going on with Florence we were able to put a wreath on every headstone.”
In 2022, for the first time, Yates said a historically Black and formerly forgotten cemetery in New Bern will be included in the event.
“The Greenwood Cemetery is a historically Black cemetery in downtown New Bern. There are 63 veterans that are buried in Greenwood, and that cemetery essentially had kind of been forgotten about. A lot of these veterans that are there, their headstones had been knocked over or had actually sank down into the ground. It’s just a lot of age there. It goes back to the Civil War also,” he said.
But the cemetery has been under renovation in recent years, and Yates said all of its veterans will be recognized with a wreath.
“American Legion 539 started a project two years ago of identifying these veterans and fixing their headstones and have worked on this, and then this year they were added to Wreaths Across America,” he explained, “And so, they have actually sponsored all 63 of the wreaths in that cemetery.”
The ceremony starts at noon at New Bern National Cemetery. Parking is available nearby but Yates said it can be challenging. The City of New Bern Parks and Recreation will provide buses from Ruth's Chapel Church at Simmons St. and Oaks Rd. to the cemetery. The buses will start running at 11:00 a.m.
Following the brief ceremony, volunteers will assist with placing the wreaths throughout the cemetery.