CINCINNATI — A sign at the front gate of the city-owned Wesleyan Cemetery in Cincinnati promises to bring "honor and dignity" back to the historic grounds.
But on this Veterans Day, the final resting place for hundreds of veterans going back to the Revolutionary War has dozens of broken tombstones on grounds overrun with weeds.
There are large piles of yard debris next to graves and trash cans are overflowing with garbage.
"Maintaining cemetery grounds is a highly specialized expertise that, unfortunately, is not an area where the city has specialized training in, as this is the only city-owned cemetery," according to an unattributed statement emailed to the WCPO 9 I-Team by Mayor John Cranley's Chief of Staff Holly Stutz Smith.
The troubled cemetery was the target of numerous lawsuits for decades. In 2007, Ohio's First District Court of Appeals required the city to own the cemetery. In the statement provided Thursday, city officials said an outside vendor is paid to cut the grass monthly.
"Get this cleaned up," Vietnam veteran Robert Alexander said. "This is a disrespect to not only veterans, but to other people buried in that cemetery."
Alexander said he drove from the Dayton area to join more than 200 people attending a Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Park in Green Township. The park is about nine miles from Wesleyan Cemetery.
The Green Township ceremony included two World War II veterans, including 101-year-old Ed Burke. Burke was a major who served at Omaha Beach, which suffered the highest casualties of D-Day.
Burke said "it's very important" to honor veterans and treat them and their final resting places with dignity.
"We have certain priorities that we should observe historically," Burke said. "It's just a shame the city government doesn't do a better job. It's just sad."
According to the city's statement, officials will be at the cemetery Friday to check the condition of the grounds.