ALTON, Ill. — It's a peaceful cemetery where hundreds of veterans have been laid to rest. But as peaceful as it is here, there's a problem with Alton National Cemetery that no one has been able to fix.
Many of the veterans it was built to honor, can't even get to it.
Like former airman, Don Feldott.
He's one of hundreds of local veterans who've never been able to attend the cemetery's famous sunset Memorial Day service.
"There's no current way to get up there for paralyzed veterans. To view the graves and participate in ceremonies," said Feldott.
"They are people who fought for our country and all veterans deserve to be here. I would love to come to a ceremony. I think I’d be a neat experience and I’ve never been. I'm not a veteran," said Cathy Contarino, executive director of IMPACT Center for Independent Living.
In 2009, the department of Veterans Affairs paid roughly $500K to renovate the cemetery. But they didn't take that opportunity to add any ramps.
"They could've easily added one side as a ramp or something," said Contarino.
So, the fight for accessibility has continued ever since with a few strange twists along the way.
Turns out the empty land beside the cemetery that's been considered for the ramps may be occupied.
"The concern I believe is that there are remains still buried. It could be pauper's graves but they're thinking they could've been disintegrated by now," said Contarino.
Contarino is optimistic a new ally could help: Senator Tammy Duckworth. Contariono said Duckworth's representative visited the cemetery earlier this week.
"I think if anyone, Senator Duckworth, who is a veteran and a veteran with a disability can get something done. It's been so long, it's been over 100 years. It's the right thing to do," said Contarino.
The next step in installing those wheelchair ramps may include using ground penetrating radar to locate the remains buried beside the cemetery.
Any veterans or community members who can't access the cemetery are asked to contact Cathy Contarino with IMPACT. Her number is (618) 462-1411.
We are still awaiting comment from Senator Duckworth's office.
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