Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery visitors upset some gravesites underwater, covered in muck

Cemetery officials trying to pinpoint the problem, pledge to fix it

SAN ANTONIO – Officials at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery addressed concerns Thursday about several gravesites that have been inundated with water in recent weeks, leaving several grave markers submerged and the grounds a soggy mess.

Elizabeth Marroquin was not happy with the condition of the section where her father Rudy Marroquin, a World War II Navy veteran, was buried in 1984.

While visiting her father's grave on New Year's Day, Marroquin found, it and several more surrounding it, covered in murky water.

"I come to talk to my dad and I couldn't do that this year. They were covered with water and the water was all the way up here. I could not stand here," Marroquin said. "These (graves) are so green, so covered with algae. You can tell it's been here longer than three or four days, longer than a week. This has been here for months to be green like that."

Cemetery visitor Gloria Carson was also disturbed to find her dad's grave submerged.

"It's muddy, full of water," Carson said. "It's concerning and it's disgusting because I can't even kneel down to say a prayer."

The problem appears to be contained to one portion of the cemetery near the front, where the grave markers lay flat on the ground. In the affected area ,several of the grave makers have begun to sink into the highly saturated ground, leaving them underwater and covered in a layer of muck following recent rainstorms.

Marroquin said she initially complained to cemetery staff two weeks ago.

Cemetery officials said the issues are likely being caused by ongoing improvements to the cemetery grounds.

Cemetery director Frieda Robinson said contractors installed a new irrigation system late last year, which could be contributing to the problem when combined with recent heavy rains.

Crews were actively trying to pinpoint the problem Thursday, searching for any leaks or breaks in the water lines and testing the irrigation system.

Robinson said officials with the Army Corps of Engineers are also investigating the problem but had no timeline for when the situation might be resolved.

Whatever the cause, Robinson promised to fix it.

"Right now, we're not sure if it's an irrigation issue, if it's Mother Nature or a combination of both," Robinson said. "My promise to this community, as military city, as a veteran, as someone who knows that I too will be resting here, that I'm going to make sure that everything is done, everything is looked at and every possible resolve has taken place so they know that we will continue to provide that reverence, that honorable place of rest, for their loved ones."

Marroquin feels the process to identify and correct the problem is taking too long and is convinced her father's and others remains have been disturbed by the accumulation of water.

"It makes me feel horrible," Marroquin said. "This (cemetery) is a symbol of the price we pay for freedom in this country. They don't deserve that, they deserve so much better. It's so disrespectful."

In a news release, cemetery officials said the irrigation project "will not be finalized until any issues due to rain accumulation have been checked and repaired if needed."

As the project moves forward, workers will also "raise and realign the flat grave markers and will renovate the turf throughout the cemetery," which officials believe will help with the resettling of some of the headstones.

People with concerns about the conditions or questions about the renovations can call 210-820-3891.

About the Author:

Tim Gerber is an investigative reporter and anchor on the KSAT Defenders team.