Eagle Scout endeavors to have veterans' graves marked, honored

John Silvernail's digital map helps log locations of graves belonging to veterans. (Source: WAFF)
John Silvernail's digital map helps log locations of graves belonging to veterans. (Source: WAFF)
"They go to war and they defend this country, and they risk their lives doing it," John said. (Source: WAFF)
"They go to war and they defend this country, and they risk their lives doing it," John said. (Source: WAFF)

MADISON, AL (WAFF) - As the saying goes, some gave all... only for the passage of time to remove the legacy of a veteran's sacrifice.

Eagle Scout John Silvernail has been doing his part for America's veterans in the cemeteries of Madison, making sure that their graves are marked and honored.

"They go to war and they defend this country, and they risk their lives doing it," John said.

Around the holidays, the American Legion places wreaths on veterans' graves. For Memorial Day and Veterans Day it plants flags, but only on those graves it knows about, and some of its information is less than complete.

"There's also many veterans in here who do not have any markings whatsoever on their graves," explained John's father and Scoutmaster, David, "So the Legion, what they had before was just knowledge, old school knowledge, and once people started passing away, that knowledge went with them."

For his Eagle Scout project, with the help of his dad, a lieutenant colonel, John has built a database of some 400 veterans buried in Madison's four cemeteries, complete with charts to show where they are.

"The white ones are the civilian graves, and the green circles are the veterans' graves," John said as he showed us the electronic guide.

It's been a long process, taking two years.

Some of the veterans graves are obvious. Some are simply impossible to identify without a tip as to who they are.

"For all we would have known, if someone hadn't told us, it could have been a civilian grave," John said.

The American Legion is now sending out an appeal to veterans' friends and families to report where their graves are so they can be put on the list, and on the map.

"I still think there's some searching to do, and it would be good if someone would help us with that," John said.

John Silvernail says he doesn't look at cemeteries the same way anymore, and he's hoping someone else will pick up the project to create an even more detailed rendering of the cemeteries and an updated list of veterans names - maybe as part of some future project.

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