A recent call for 5-10 volunteers to clean burial grounds at Bassette and Elmerton ended up yielding a community effort of over 75 soldiers from Fort Eustis, Daily Press reports.

The overgrown cemetery dates back to the 1800’s, where it historically was a burial ground for African Americans, including many former slaves.

“It was just so overwhelming when I turned the corner and I saw all the cars lined up,” said Ghana Smith, who coordinates the cemetery cleanups for the Barrett-Peake Heritage Foundation. “I’m like, ‘Oh my God’…This is bigger than what I imagined.”

Some soldiers had spouses and children with them; Boy Scouts and other volunteers also joined the effort pushing the number over 100 people.

“When you do something like this, you get you get instant gratification,” said Army Staff Sgt. Israel Lopez  who helped organize volunteers. “Because the results of your work are there for you to view.”

Photo by George Prince/U.S. Army