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US war vets rely on alms to keep Philippine graves

By Jim Gomez

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, July 3 2011 12:05 a.m. MDT

In this July 1, 2011 photo, the flag-draped coffin of Erskine Ralph Milward, Chief Warrant Officer 3, U. S. Army retired, is prepared for burial rites at Clark Veterans Cemetery at the sprawling Clark Economic Zone, a former U.S. Air Force base in Dau, Pampanga province in northern Philippines. Retired U.S. soldiers, who voluntarily are keeping watch over the burial grounds, where some of their comrades lay, are waging a low-key battle to prod Washington to fund and take charge of the 2-acre (eight-hectare) cemetery.

Bullit Marquez, Associated Press

CLARK, Philippines — Walking along the rows of tombstones at the former U.S. Clark Air Base in the Philippines offers a glimpse of the wars America has fought and the men and women who waged them. But most of the grave markers have been half-buried for 20 years, and there is little hope that the volcanic ash obscuring names, dates and epitaphs will be cleared any time soon.

Clark Veterans Cemetery was consigned to oblivion in 1991, when Mount Pinatubo's eruption forced the U.S. to abandon the base. Retired U.S. troops volunteer to keep watch, relying on donations to try to maintain the grounds. They lament they're helplessly short on funds to fix things, and that Washington is unwilling to help.

Veteran Robert Chesko calls it a cemetery that America forgot.

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