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First Sgt. Pedro Lopez, senior noncommissioned officer of Company D, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, along with daughters Eliza and Cristina, plants flowers at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery on Sunday, March 20, 2016. More than 30 company soldiers and their family members helped clean the more than 175 gravestones, which lie in a small area within the Frankfurt main cemetery.

First Sgt. Pedro Lopez, senior noncommissioned officer of Company D, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, along with daughters Eliza and Cristina, plants flowers at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery on Sunday, March 20, 2016. More than 30 company soldiers and their family members helped clean the more than 175 gravestones, which lie in a small area within the Frankfurt main cemetery. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

First Sgt. Pedro Lopez, senior noncommissioned officer of Company D, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, along with daughters Eliza and Cristina, plants flowers at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery on Sunday, March 20, 2016. More than 30 company soldiers and their family members helped clean the more than 175 gravestones, which lie in a small area within the Frankfurt main cemetery.

First Sgt. Pedro Lopez, senior noncommissioned officer of Company D, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, along with daughters Eliza and Cristina, plants flowers at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery on Sunday, March 20, 2016. More than 30 company soldiers and their family members helped clean the more than 175 gravestones, which lie in a small area within the Frankfurt main cemetery. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

Spc. Brandon Nava, left, and Pfc. Robert Noble, both with Company D, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regment, clean gravemarkers at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery, in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday, March 20, 2016. The site contains the remains of stillborn and young children of U.S. servicemembers who died between 1947 and 1986.

Spc. Brandon Nava, left, and Pfc. Robert Noble, both with Company D, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regment, clean gravemarkers at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery, in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday, March 20, 2016. The site contains the remains of stillborn and young children of U.S. servicemembers who died between 1947 and 1986. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

Lt. Col. Mike Bentley, 1st Battalion, 214 Aviation Regiment commander, rakes up loose grass at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery, in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday, March 20, 2016.

Lt. Col. Mike Bentley, 1st Battalion, 214 Aviation Regiment commander, rakes up loose grass at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery, in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday, March 20, 2016. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

Spc. Jazmin Medina cleans off the gravemarker of Karine Lavelle Tynes at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday, March 20, 2016. The children's cemetery, or kinderfeld, is tucked away within the sprawling main cemetery of the city.

Spc. Jazmin Medina cleans off the gravemarker of Karine Lavelle Tynes at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday, March 20, 2016. The children's cemetery, or kinderfeld, is tucked away within the sprawling main cemetery of the city. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

A soldier uses a pen to clean moss out of the gravemarker of a young child at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery on Sunday, March 20, 2016. There is no dedicated organization to maintain the grounds, so volunteers are needed periodically to tidy up the area, which contains 176 graves.

A soldier uses a pen to clean moss out of the gravemarker of a young child at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery on Sunday, March 20, 2016. There is no dedicated organization to maintain the grounds, so volunteers are needed periodically to tidy up the area, which contains 176 graves. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

The large memorial stone at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery, within the Frankfurt, Germany, main cemetery.

The large memorial stone at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery, within the Frankfurt, Germany, main cemetery. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

Jo Ator, center, an American expatriate and Army veteran who maintains the Frankfurt American children's cemetery in Frankfurt, Germany, plans for future maintenance work at the site with First Sgt. Pedro Lopez, senior noncommissioned officer of Company D, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, on Sunday, March 20, 2016.

Jo Ator, center, an American expatriate and Army veteran who maintains the Frankfurt American children's cemetery in Frankfurt, Germany, plans for future maintenance work at the site with First Sgt. Pedro Lopez, senior noncommissioned officer of Company D, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, on Sunday, March 20, 2016. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

Staff Sgt. Lyle Snavely, center, pours water on a gravemarker to clean it as Pfc. Robert Noble, left, waits to clean, at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery in Frankfurt, Germany, March 20, 2016.

Staff Sgt. Lyle Snavely, center, pours water on a gravemarker to clean it as Pfc. Robert Noble, left, waits to clean, at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery in Frankfurt, Germany, March 20, 2016. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

Pfc. Dale Jones cleans a gravemarker at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery, March 20, 2016.

Pfc. Dale Jones cleans a gravemarker at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery, March 20, 2016. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

Spc. Scott Steidinger, right, and wife Hailey clean gravemarkers at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday, March 20, 2016.

Spc. Scott Steidinger, right, and wife Hailey clean gravemarkers at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday, March 20, 2016. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

Isabella Butterfield, daughter of Staff Sgt. Aaron Butterfield, cleans a gravemarker at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday, March 20, 2016. Volunteers are required to occasionally clean up the cemetery, which contains more than 175 gravemarkers and is tucked in a corner of the main city cemetery in Frankfurt.

Isabella Butterfield, daughter of Staff Sgt. Aaron Butterfield, cleans a gravemarker at the Frankfurt American children's cemetery in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday, March 20, 2016. Volunteers are required to occasionally clean up the cemetery, which contains more than 175 gravemarkers and is tucked in a corner of the main city cemetery in Frankfurt. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

WIESBADEN, Germany — Nestled away in a corner of the Frankfurt main cemetery is a somber legacy of the once-massive U.S. military presence around the city.

Between 1947 and 1986, children of U.S. servicemembers were laid to rest at the cemetery — some were stillborn or 1 day old. None was older than 4.

On Sunday, a group of 30 soldiers and family members from Company D, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, based in nearby Wiesbaden, spent several hours tidying the 176 graves, along with a larger memorial stone and garden.

After World War II, the Army would not pay for the shipment stateside of remains for children younger than 2, said Jo Ator, an American expatriate and veteran who has led maintenance efforts at the cemetery for more than 20 years. Many junior soldiers couldn’t afford to pay, and a local burial place was required.

There was much work to be done at the site Sunday, planting flowers, cleaning the gravestones and trimming weeds. Unlike in the case of the larger children’s cemetery in Kaiserslautern, which contains more than 450 graves, there is no organization dedicated to maintaining the site.

In the past, groups like the Marine Corps detachment at the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt and a Boy Scout troop from Wiesbaden have helped Ator, but during the past winter, the task was left to Ator and her daughter.

“The first time I heard about it — myself, I’ve got six kids — just thinking about the cemetery being left alone without being taken care of, I knew I had some soldiers who would be happy to come help out and maintain the cemetery,” said First Sgt. Pedro Lopez, of 1-214’s Company D.

Lt. Col. Mike Bentley, the battalion commander, who said he had heard about the volunteer opportunity through his wife, said he’s looking into whether other companies in his unit would be interested in helping.

Ator said there are plans for a memorial ceremony at the cemetery in May, which is the Month of the Military Child. It would be the first at the site since the late 1980s, when the large memorial stone was dedicated.

stoutamire.dan@stripes.com Twitter: @DKS_Stripes


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