Commander, Submarine Group Two


  Helena Conducts Cemetery Cleanup

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine - Thirteen members of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS HELENA (SSN 725), stationed at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, spent Saturday, Apr. 10, cleaning up the oldest cemetery in South Berwick.

 The Vine Street Cemetery, also known as Old Fields Burying Ground, was established in the early 1600’s and is completely reliant on volunteers for its upkeep. The purpose of this outing was to have the site looking pristine for visitors by Memorial Day. Helena’s efforts went a long way in accomplishing that goal.

 The day began with the team breaking into small groups after being greeted with a brief history of the location and a “to do” list.

 Each group was responsible for different tasks.  Some were charged with removing downed branches.  With rakes in hand, some took on the thick residual layers of moist leaves and pine straw nestled atop the entire cemetery floor, which spanned almost the length of two football fields.  The volunteers also removed whole trees that had died and been cut into more manageable pieces. These tasks turned out to be a true team effort.

 With nearly a ton of leaves and pine straw raked into piles about ten dead trees and hundreds of branches, the outing proved to be quite an undertaking by day’s end.  The Sailors, however, were happy to spend a sunny day outdoors enhancing such a historic, peaceful site.

  "We put in a lot of hard work today.  It was very gratifying," said Machinist’s Mate Second Class Andrew Hentges.

 Many expressed their intent to return to provide the finishing touch before the site is presented to those wishing to remember veterans and historic figures passed. 

 Fading far back under tall pines with open spaces and clusters of ornate groupings of historic stones and monuments, the cemetery covers nearly four acres of land just south of South Berwick.  It is the resting place of some of America’s first settlers and many distinguished others.  Generals, captains, surgeons, lawyers, justices, senators and shipbuilders can be found here along with people and service members as recent as the World War I era.

 The USS Helena has been dry docked at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard since September of last year.  While docked, her sailors have taken every opportunity to support communities throughout New England in the midst of their Engineered Overhaul.  The boat is scheduled for completion of its overhaul in Spring 2011.