Veterans Affairs | Dec. 21, 2012 | Spotlight

Picture of CSULA Golden Eagle Vets.
Members of the CSULA Golden Eagle Vets volunteer to clean up a portion of the Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights.

Cal State L.A. students honor decorated veterans by cleaning up neighborhood cemetery

Evergreen Cemetery is final resting place of 4 Medal of Honor recipients

Taking time off from their holiday break, members of Cal State L.A.’s Golden Eagle Vets (GEV) student organization spent several hours clearing brush, debris and trash at the Evergreen Cemetery.

Established on August 23, 1877 in the city of Boyle Heights, Evergreen is considered the oldest cemetery in the Greater Los Angeles area and is the burial site for numerous World War II (WWII) veterans.

A former student veteran while attending a campus pre-screening of TV newscaster David Ono’s documentary on the Congressional Medal of Honor learned about this cemetery just minutes away from CSULA and encouraged the members of the GEV to “adopt” the cemetery.

Karena Cuevas cleaning up the memorial.

Pictured: Grave marker of a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.

Pictured: CSULA student volunteers clean up grave markers.

According to Laura Shigemitsu, director of the University’s Veterans Affairs Office (VAO), “The idea of beautifying this cemetery, which is right in our campus backyard, was presented to the GEV club as a way to respect these brave soldiers who sacrificed for our country.”

She said, “The members, who are mostly military veterans themselves, all voted in favor of informally adopting the cemetery and launching this community service project.”

The cemetery is the burial site of four Congressional Medal of Honor recipients from the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team—Joe Hayashi, Sadao Munemori, Kiyoshi K. Muranaga and Ted T. Tanouye.

A monument dedicated to the 442nd Regimental Combat Unit that served in WWII, as well as those who died while on duty during the Korean War, was installed at the cemetery on Memorial Day in 1949.

In coordination with the VAO, the CSULA troop began its effort to beautify the military portion of the cemetery on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

“I am here to help clean up the Evergreen Cemetery for WWII veterans, in part because my husband has served in the U.S. Army, and was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Karen Hansen, computer science major. “I respect the accomplishments and achievements these people made for our country.”

While busily cleaning with towels by hand, Shigemitsu informed the students that Munemori was the only member of the 100th/442nd who was honored immediately with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor, following his death in combat.

“It was not until June 21, 2000, when 20 additional Japanese American veterans were presented the Medal of Honor for their bravery during WWII,” explained Shigemitsu. “Hayashi, Muranaga and Tanouye were among those 20 Medal of Honor recipients.”

Shigemitsu also enlightened the students with the fact that the cemetery is segregated with sections for Armenians, Chinese, Japanese, and Latinos. It is also the final resting place for some of Southern California’s pioneer families and politicians.

After cleaning up the grave markers along with the memorial monument, Shigemitsu conducted a quick walking tour with the group of student volunteers, passing some tombstones that were more than 100 years old.

Now, the students are committed to going back to the Evergreen Cemetery every month to make sure the historical site is maintained with respect and honor.

“I find it truly rewarding to be able to contribute to cleaning up the grave stones of WWII veterans and Medal of Honor recipients,” said business finance major Mark Kleinsmith, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a sergeant. “It is part of the military tradition to give back, as well as to honor those who passed before you.” (For Kleinsmith’s brief interview, click here:

Congressional Medal of Honor recipients buried at the Evergreen Cemetery:

- Joe Hayashi:

- Sadao Munemori:

- Kiyoshi K. Muranaga:

- Ted T. Tanouye:

Links to reference: