Teen builds memorial for veterans' headstones at historic Richmond cemetery

'We found 82 African American headstones lying in a pile under the dirt. When I saw that I knew I had my project.'
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Posted at 3:19 PM, Dec 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-12 06:01:38-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Richmond high school student is not only impacting the community, but also inspiring other teens by cleaning up and restoring one of the city's historic cemeteries.

Auggie Bryan, a member of Boy Scout Troop 1829, is on a mission to become an Eagle Scout and learned about how many of Richmond's historically Black cemeteries have been neglected.

“We found 82 African American headstones lying in a pile under the dirt. When I saw that I knew I had my project,” he explained.

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The high school junior's project then became building a memorial for the veterans' headstones in Woodland Cemetery.

Bryan spent months planning, organizing and preparing for his project. He had guidance from Woodland Cemetery staff, Richmond’s First African Baptist Church and the Virginia Memorial Association.

Auggie Bryan
Auggie Bryan

He gathered other teens and friends to help on Saturday. They first split up into three groups to divide and conquer. Bryan oversaw it all as he delegated and gave instructions for each group.

One of the groups worked to build a memorial foundation, another rehabilitated some of the walkways and the other group built a memorial and recovered headstones.

“It’s really important to our community and country because we’ve had people come out to the cemetery being like, 'Why are these like this with headstones in a pile when they gave their lives for our country?'" he said. "So I think that it is both symbolically and to the people themselves important to respect and give them the dignity they deserve.”

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As Bryan led his group to restore and give new respect to those buried in the cemetery, he said he hopes other teens will be inspired to take on more projects to give back.

“I think the most important part is to have the courage and bravery to put yourself out there," he said. "I hope we leave it better than we found it. I think we need to do some good for these people who have done so much good for us and make it a shining example of what we can give back to the community."

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