Volunteers cleaned up Jonesville Cemetery inside Dobbins Air Reserve Base on Saturday.
Marietta, GA -- Volunteers found history and hallowed ground hidden beneath the overgrowth in a fenced-off acre of Dobbins Air Reserve Base on Saturday.
"Most of us didn't even know there was a cemetery on this base," said Frank Pascarelli of the 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron.
It's a final resting place known as the Jonesville Cemetery, and it's being rediscovered.
"Most of the people in here, if not all, were freed slaves," said Mike Jones of the Cobb County Cemetery Commission. "We know of about 36, but there's probably more not marked at this time."
Airmen from Dobbins ARB joined community volunteers and members of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Marietta for the cemetery cleanup.
"I was so overjoyed when I walked in and saw volunteers. I just wanted to have a hallelujah good time this morning," said Annette Carter, a historian for Mt. Sinai Baptist Church.
The church used to be located right near the cemetery.
"I felt like our members should have been able to come back and visit the graves of their loved ones, and it has not been possible," Carter said.
The cemetery has been overgrown and tough to access, since it sits in the middle of highly-secured Dobbins Air Reserve Base.
The federal government bought the property all around it during World War 2.
"The government paid the people of Jonesville, then ran them off to build the Bell Bomber plant," said Jones of the cemetery commission. "The government needed this property."
Now volunteers are committed to reconnecting with the past.
"It's about respect, teamwork and honor," said Dobbins Command Chief John Anderson. "The concept was built on respect for an area that we should be careful with and put it out there in a positive way."
Volunteer Pascarelli said it's important to learn from history.
"These folks didn't have a choice," he said. "It's an ugly chapter in American history, and it's an opportunity to bring dignity to the folks laid to rest here."
The cemetery cleanup project will continue on Sunday, with another work day scheduled in March.
It's an all-volunteer effort, with no government funds used for the work since the cemetery is not owned by the government.