Spirit of Alabama: Chambers Cemetery

The cemetery isn’t large, only about a hundred graves are there.  But, 25 or 30 of those hold the remains of veterans who have served in the armed forces.  There haven’t been any recent burials at the cemetery, and it appears that there has been little, or no maintenance done.  And, that’s what prompted a local veteran to contact the office of Veteran and Military Affairs at the University of Alabama.

Tiffany Laurie is a veteran. She spent six years in the United States Air Force and is now working on her degree at the University of Alabama.  Tiffany is a member of the Crimson Legion.  The group was formally called the Campus Veterans Association.  She told us what sparked interest in the Chambers Cemetery.

“A gentleman reached out to us who has a friend buried here. He was concerned about the state of the cemetery. He felt its current condition was disrespectful to those who sacrificed their lives for our country.”

The man who expressed concern wasn’t just a friend to a man buried here.  He fought alongside Grady Lewis in Vietnam.  Lewis was killed in action on Nov. 21, 1969.  Lewis’s headstone was almost impossible to read. That’s where the Crimson Legion, the University of Alabama and volunteers decided to clean up the cemetery.

Kate Kassal is a third-year law school student at the university. After graduation she’ll join the Marine Corps.  Volunteering for this project was important to her.

“My grandfather was in the Air Force and my younger brother is a senior at the Air Force Academy. He is also going to cross-commission into the Marine Corps so…” {laugh}

Using special chemicals, brushes, and good old-fashioned scrubbing, the volunteers brought decades old headstones back to life.  You can now read the inscription on Grady Lewis’ headstone.

Tiffany Laurie understands the importance of honoring our nation’s veterans.  For her, it’s family.

“I grew up with my Grandpa who was in Vietnam. He taught me the importance of connecting the older generation of veterans with the younger generation of veterans. He is in my heart when I do what I do,” Laurie said.

The volunteers spent most of the day cleaning and raking and moving dirt that had washed over some graves.  It’s hard to tell if the families of the veterans buried here will see the results of all the hard work done at Chambers Cemetery. After talking about the project, we asked both Tiffany Laurie and Kate Kassal what America means to them.

Kassal said, “America to me is home first of all. I think of freedom and liberty are two main things. I think about it when I think about America. I love this country. I’m thankful for all our veterans that have served and I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to serve our country as well.”

Laurie summed it up this way. “America means to me a place of endless possibilities. People can come here and restart their lives and do something great or they can come here and just live, just be and be safe. It means freedom. It means freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of religion … a special place.”

The work was finished just in time for Veterans Day.  The effort reminded us why we should appreciate our veterans, on Veterans Day and every day.




Categories: Featured, Local News, Spirit of Alabama