By Jennifer McGraw

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A naval cemetery in Vallejo is in bad shape, and a local veteran is working with two others to get lawmakers to clean it up.

It’s tucked away behind closed gates in Vallejo, and is the oldest military cemetery on the West Coast dating back to 1858.

“There are walls that are crumbling, there are tombstones that are down, fallen broken,” said retired Navy Lt. Bob Willey of Loomis. “I was disgusted.”

Willey recently visited the site and had to fight back tears.

“I was embarrassed. It’s a feeling that you got to be a vet understand,” he said. “You’ve seen military cemeteries and you know how precise they are and well-maintained. This was a disaster.”

That’s because there’s been little to no maintenance. After the Mare Island Naval Base closed it was given to the city.

“The city of Vallejo went bankrupt, so they didn’t have the resources to maintain the cemetery,” Willey added.

He said it’s a disgrace to those buried there that include the daughter of Francis Scott Key, who wrote The Star Spangled Banner, three men who were awarded the Medal of Honor, and hundreds of others.

Willey and two fellow veterans, one from Vallejo and another in Washington, D.C., went straight to their legislatures to do something about the disgraced gravesites and, finally, their voices were heard.

“We put some significant pressure on them,” Wiley said.

Through the efforts of Willey, Col. Nestor Aliga, and Col. Ralph Parrott, lawmakers have introduced legislation that would transfer the cemetery from the city to Veterans Affairs to be maintained under a national act.

“All we want to do is treat the veterans the way the government says they should be treated,” he said.

As Memorial Day is upon us, these veterans say they’re just doing their duty for those who died doing theirs.

There’s also an online petition circulating that has more than 54,000 signatures. Click here to sign it.

 

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