cemetary_vases_web.jpgCOLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The final resting place of Sanco Thompson is finally marked, his service to his country etched in stone.

Sonya Hodges saw to that.

On a Friday morning, the Columbia woman stopped by Thompson's grave and planted a tiny flag for Memorial Day in the soil near his headstone. “I'm just proud to be the granddaughter of a World War I soldier,” she said.

The Army-issue headstone she requested for Thompson is set on a shady knoll behind a manufacturing plant – a private spot viewed most often from the air, no doubt, as pilots prepare to land at nearby Jim Hamilton-L.B. Owens Airport.

Thompson was a WWI veteran, one of some 3,000 African-American men delivered to France from South Carolina in 1918.

They made up the distinguished 371st Infantry.

Hodges is learning their names and their stories.

She is meeting their descendants.

She is marking their graves.

Two years ago, she confirmed her grandfather had been buried on land now owned by Interstate Polymer Group. Then she found out about his service in the war.

Since then, Hodges has documented that 12 WWI veterans are buried at Childs Cemetery, a mostly forgotten field.

She is getting headstones from the Veterans Administration for all of them. As a service, J.P. Holley Funeral Home set out five markers that had been delivered to Interstate Polymer.

“They deserve to be honored in some way,” Cedrick Lawson said from the funeral home.

Debbie Bloom, local history manager at the Richland County Public Library, said Hodges has spent hours at the library doing historical research.

“I don't know how she has the persistence and the patience to deal with the federal government but she has worked with them to get a monument to recognize their service,” too, Bloom said. “She's just a remarkable woman in her devotion to the cemetery and to the veterans who are buried there.”