Dobbins Air Reserve Base. Ga. --
Every Airman has taken the creed, which includes having a tradition of honor and being a guardian of freedom and justice. Those segments of the Airman’s Creed were recently on full display. In remembrance of Juneteenth, Airmen from the 622nd Training Squadron held a fellowship event sharing the history of Jonesville Cemetery, which is located within Dobbins ARB. The cemetery contains marked and unmarked graves of a freed slave community, which occupied these grounds along with Mount Sinai Baptist Church up until 1942 during World War II.
A survey of the cemetery in 1981 revealed grave markers dating back to as early as 1845. Recent efforts have accounted for 65 people known to be buried there, while 15 of those graves are currently unknown.
A tremendous effort was put into the cleanup effort which consisted of 189 volunteers completing 552 hours of service from October 2021 to May 2022 to clear out brush and overgrown shrubbery.
“It was overwhelming that so many people wanted to be involved,” said Maj. Jarius Wallace, 622nd Training Squadron Commander. “I was so pleased because I know that now we have help. Many have come from outside the base to make it happen. Military members are inviting their church members while fraternity and sorority members are also getting involved.”
Customized bricks were created to honor those unknown graves, which were placed at the conclusion of the event.
“We felt a way to honor the unmarked graves was to have custom bricks created with symbolism in mind,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jacquelynn Palazola, Program Manager of Air Transportation for the 622 TRS. “The red brick symbolized the blood that was shed on their journey to freedom while the brick symbolized the strong foundation of the church and community that previously occupied this space.”
The commander of the 622d Civil Engineering Group, Col. Lance F. Turner, said his team has been inspired to honor those lives by advancing equality and embracing brotherhood within the current generation.
A quarterly volunteer outing is being organized to assure that efforts won’t end here. Dobbins Airmen plan to preserve the cemetery to act as guardians of freedom and justice as they honor those resting within.
“We wanted to have a legacy project and it seems that everyone else is part of it now,” said Wallace. “We lead the movement, and we hope that Airmen understand the ‘why’ behind this event. The ‘why’ won’t die with this continued involvement.”