Weather Alerts 19 View »

Group trying to get headstones for unmarked graves of Civil War Vets

Kimberly Foley

Group trying to get headstones for unmarked graves of Civil War Vets

CREATED Feb. 18, 2013

Bellevue, NE - More than two thousand people are buried at Bellevue Cemetery.

About 40 graves are for Civil War veterans, but seven are unmarked.

One group is hoping to give those men the recognition they deserve.
"There are men who are lying under the ground with no tombstones," said Sarah Bernhagen, of the Bellevue Cemetery Committee. "It doesn't matter that it was 150 years ago. The fact is, we are here today because of them."
All seven plots without tombstones were Civil War veterans.
Bernhagen, along with the rest of the cemetery committee, partnered up with the Sarpy County Museum and the John A. Gentleman Mortuary, where she works.
"Part of my life as a funeral director, is honoring people's lives," said Tom Belford, the president of John A. Gentleman Mortuary. "This is one way we can do that for people who really can't pay us back."
The group is now working to get headstones for all seven men. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said it would provide them, but there was a catch.
"We need to track down a living relative, and they have to sign off and approve on it (so) that the request is legitimate," said Ben Justman, the director of the Sarpy County Museum.
For the past few months, the group has been working to locate living relatives of the veterans.
They have found two. One family was in Texas and another was in Oregon.
They said they're now on a mission to find the other five families.
"The idea that people are walking over somebody, and not even acknowledging them, is just very depressing," said Bernhagen. "I just feel that we need to make sure that they're honored, and when we do find these families, we are able to bring those tombstones out and have an amazing ceremony."
The veterans' families the group is trying to find:
Pvt. James W. McGinley
Pvt. William J. Dyer
Pvt. Francis L. Mitchell
Pvt. Amos D. Peters
Pvt. Henry B. Seelemire
Pvt. Jesse Howard
Bugler John L. Polen
If you know relatives of any of these men, call Bernhagen at (402) 293-0999.