Mare Island Naval Shipyard closed in 1998, the Navy transferred the property to the City of Vallejo, with no plan to maintain the cemetery. Over the years it fell into disrepair. The cemetery contains the remains of Francis Scott Key's daughter, and three Medal of Honor recipients.
The Department of Defense has approved an application by the City of Vallejo to begin planning initial repairs to the Mare Island Naval Cemetery, U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson announced Thursday.
Work will include repairing or replacing fencing, installing a flagpole, and repairing the damaged drainage system, according to the announcement.
These improvements will be done through the DOD’s Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) program, which is designed to provide training for reserve forces while also bettering local communities through medical or engineering support, Thompson’s office said.
“This is an exciting announcement that provides a plan to begin repairs on the Mare Island Cemetery and an important step toward giving our fallen heroes the final resting place they deserve,” Thompson (D-St. Helena) said. “It also highlights the work still to be done to fully restore the cemetery and I will continue fighting for every possible avenue that will allow us to complete this important task.”
The City of Vallejo applied for assistance with these engineering projects through the IRT program and was approved through support by Thompson, who has been championing restoration of the cemetery, including with a bill to transfer the cemetery’s control to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thompson’s bill to help restore the cemetery has more than 70 Democrat and Republican cosponsors and is supported by five major veterans service organizations, his staff says.
A companion bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein is also working its way through the senate.
The IRT work wouldn’t likely begin until late 2019, subject to the availability of the IRT unit, further cost negotiations with the city, and other necessary advance work, including environmental reviews, Thompson’s office said.
Those months during which the cemetery can further deteriorate is the bad news portion of this announcement, said Ralph Parrott, the retired Virginia-based retired Navy captain whose chance day trip to the island sparked the effort to get it restored and maintained.