SIOUX CITY | For decades, no one who visited Floyd Cemetery knew Joel Rogers was buried here, much less that he had served with the Union Army in the Civil War.
Now the name of Rogers and 19 other Civil War veterans are visible to anyone who visits the cemetery's Grand Army of the Republic Section, in which 72 Civil War veterans are buried.
Gleaming white tombstones anchored in fresh concrete have filled in gaps among the three rows of military markers. The graves of those men recently identified will be rededicated at 10:30 a.m. Saturday during a ceremony featuring members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War dressed in Civil War-era military attire.
Not only are many of the gaps in the section now filled in, the area, established by the city in 1885 for the Grand Army of the Republic Post No. 22 as the final resting spot for former Union soldiers, is undergoing improvements.
"It had not been really touched much since 1904, and there were improvements that could be made," said Tim Tushla, the city's cemeteries supervisor.
Old trees have been removed. Others were trimmed. Old concrete is being replaced. A flagpole was moved from near the street to its original position near a monument inside the section. Sod will be put in. Older veteran grave markers were cleaned and will be straightened if necessary. There are plans to install a metal arc bearing the words "Grand Army of the Republic" over the entrance to the section.
The area will look a lot greener and dignified, but the most meaningful change will be the new tombstones marking graves that for reasons unknown had remained unmarked for so many years.
Tushla considers the case of one of the veterans, who died in 1878.
"For 139 years, no one knew this man had served and was even here. It seemed appropriate and justified what we were doing," Tushla said.
In 2015, Tushla was notified by Roy Linn, of Correctionville, Iowa, about a Veterans Administration program to provide free military gravestones for grave sites that are missing them. The great-grandson of a civil war soldier, Linn, the state graves registration officer for the Iowa chapter of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, and his wife, Linda, visit cemeteries to find the graves of Civil War veterans and post their locations on a national website.
Floyd Cemetery has 275 Civil War soldiers buried there, and the city's other two cemeteries also have a number of them. Tushla knew there had to be veterans missing grave markers in the Grand Army of the Republic burial section at Floyd Cemetery, and research by city staff confirmed it. His staff was able to confirm the military service of 20 men. A 21st veteran was identified, but his military service could not be verified to the extent necessary to qualify him for a marker.
In the meantime, West High School students have researched the men buried there, trying to find out more about them. Some of the students' findings will be presented during Saturday's ceremony.
Tushla hopes the publicity and ceremony might attract relatives of these veterans to come forward with more information about them.
"We've already had two people contact us in connection with one of the gentlemen," Tushla said. "Obviously, we'd like to have more. We'd love to recognize them."
He'd like to recognize even more, because empty spots still remain amid the Civil War veterans' graves, an indication there are more unidentified soldiers buried there.
"I think there probably are because there are still gaps there, but we filled 20 of those gaps," Tushla said. "It looks more complete now."