Inside efforts to repair collapsed gravesites at Fort Bliss National Cemetery following flash floods

El Paso News

Photo by Johnny Munoz for KTSM

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Work crews have been working around the clock at Fort Bliss National Cemetery to restore the quiet dignity to graves damaged by recent flash flooding.

KTSM 9 News was onsite as workers covered the collapsed graves. 

“We had several sunken gravesites, but we have three teams that are working diligently to repair the gravesites,” said Brenda Bustos, administration officer at Fort Bliss National Cemetery. “They’re filling them with soil and making sure they’re fixed as soon as they can and they’re working overtime and during the week as well.”

Graves can cave in or sink when a large amount of water comes into contact with an air pocket in the soil, causing a partial collapse. This often occurs in older graves, while modern ones are installed with concrete cribbing to prevent collapse.

“To watch all it takes to fix the gravesites has been a lot to learn,” said Bustos.

Teams of about three or four worked to remove the massive and heavy gravestones, while an excavator operator delicately covered the exposed graves with newly stirred earth, then leveled the area to make sure no other air pockets were present.

The process was done with care to not further disrupt the final resting place.

“We do our profession as best we can for the families,” said Joe Dixon, head groundskeeper at Fort Bliss National Cemetery.

Bustos said she and the repair teams work quickly to identify damaged graves to maintain peace for the service members and their partners interred at the cemetery.

“We want to make sure this is a shrine the families can be proud of, as it should be,” she said.

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