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U.S. OKs $5M for Philippines cemetery repairs

Jan. 10, 2013 - 02:46PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 10, 2013 - 02:46PM  |  
A headstone for Army Staff Sgt. Hershel Lee Covery at Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines shows how nearly half of his headstone was covered by volcanic ash after the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo.
A headstone for Army Staff Sgt. Hershel Lee Covery at Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines shows how nearly half of his headstone was covered by volcanic ash after the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo. (Clark Veterans Cemetery Restoration Association)
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President Obama has signed legislation that allocates $5 million to restore the dilapidated Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines and puts the cemetery under the purview of the U.S. government for the first time in more than 20 years.

The cemetery has been in a state of disrepair since a 1991 volcanic eruption in Mount Pinatubo buried the roughly 8,600 tombstones under a foot of ash just as the U.S. was leaving Clark Air Base and the Philippines.

Since then, a local Veterans of Foreign Wars post has taken over the cemetery's upkeep, but it will take an estimated $2.5 million to repair all the damage from the 1991 eruption, said Dennis Wright, chairman of the Clark Veterans Cemetery Restoration Association, a non-profit group.

"Now, I'm telling you, when you sit there and look at that, it can only do one thing to you: Make you mad and make you angry that our government has got 8,600 U.S. servicemen and their dependents who are buried at Clark who were abandoned and then forgotten," Wright told Air Force Times in November.

Under the legislation signed by President Obama, the American Battle Monuments Commission will assume the responsibility for maintaining the cemetery.

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