God's Timing Is Perfect
Glen Phillips Jr., a retired Ssg. of the Kentucky Army Guard, has a passion for history. He also has a lot of respect for those who have served. Those two things, along with divine intervention, recently led to some amazing discoveries!
Glen was helping a friend look up deceased relatives. As they were doing the research, one of the local cemeteries listed caught his attention. Glen had grown up in Casey County, Kentucky, and had never heard of the Liberty Colored Cemetery, which was listed as being just down the street from his childhood home. When he clicked on the details for the cemetery, the last name on the list of those who were buried there — Owen Wilkinson — grabbed his attention.
"I found out through document links listed there that he was a World War I veteran," he said.
And so, the history buff began researching the vet. He learned that Private Owen Wilkinson, who passed away in 1946, had lived in Casey County and had indeed served in WWI. But he was disturbed to learn that Owen had returned home after the war without any medals, ribbons or formal recognition to commemorate his service.
"For a man to have served in WWI, survive, come home, and not get any awards for his service, and then to be buried in an unmarked, segregated grave . . . that broke my heart," he said.
But that was just the beginning of Glen's disappointment. He decided to visit the cemetery where Owen was said to be buried, and was appalled to find it in complete disrepair. It was overgrown and completely covered by weeds, briars and leaves.
"I thought to myself, ‘what a shame, that one of our veterans, who was willing to give his life during World War I, was buried in an unmarked grave under a pile of leaves and branches.'"
And so, Glen made it his personal mission to right this wrong.
He dedicated himself to learning any and all he could about Owen. It took a lot of work, but he finally tracked down the man's daughter, Mary Alice Wilkinson. But as it turns out, it was actually God who was leading him to her. Mary Alice, a minister in Jamestown, KY, says,
"A few weeks ago, I was awakened at 2:30 in the morning, and God told me that my family and I were about to receive a great blessing," she said. "And the first part of that great blessing came, I believe, the next day when Glen called on me."
Now that Glen had found Wilkinson's family, it was time to get to work. He organized a community clean-up of the neglected cemetery, which has been renamed the Graves-Napier Cemetery. He was amazed by the incredible turnout, and was especially pleased to see Carson Clayton show up — the son of Mary Alice and grandson of Owen Wilkinson.
"I wanted to be there to represent my family," said Carson, who'd never been to the cemetery before. "You can't even begin to imagine how much this means to us."
The exact location of his grandfather's grave was unknown. Glen had made numerous trips to the cemetery and searched, but to no avail. But that's because God was working on a different timeline. And as we know, His timing is perfect!
When Carson showed up at the site, he immediately made a connection with the young son of one of the volunteers — Ayden.
"Here I was walking around, and this little fella started friendin' me right off the bat," Carson fondly recalls. "So I asked him if he wanted to walk around with me."
So the two went for a stroll together. When they reached the bottom of the hill, Ayden said he felt something under his feet. Carson bent down and swept away the leaves and that's when he made a shocking discovery — his uncle Arthur's headstone!
"I knew that my uncle was buried around my grandfather, so my heart started racing. We started digging around some more, and then it happened. We found my grandfather's headstone."
The discovery was an incredibly emotional moment for Carson. He also uncovered a tin marker for the burial site of Mamie Wilkinson, his grandfather's wife. And as the news spread around the cemetery, everyone was in awe. Glen says,
"I had been in the cemetery a total of 16 times before that moment. I had dug around, looked around, and had assumed that Owen was buried in an unmarked grave. What a miracle this was - it was the right place, at the right moment, and it was found by the right person."
And Carson completely agrees. He says,
"To me, it seemed like Divine intervention. I think I was meant to dig it up, and I think that young little fella was meant to be used as His vessel."
Carson says his mother is absolutely ecstatic. The family is praising God for the incredible blessing, but they are also grateful to the persistent man who played such a large part in God's plan.
"I just can't say enough about Glen," says Carson. "For a complete stranger to take it upon himself to give honor to my grandfather - well, it means more than I could ever put into words. This is such an overwhelming honor for my family, and Casey County is fortunate to have people like him in it. He has such a big heart."
Glen was incredibly pleased with the outcome of the community cleanup. But his mission is not yet complete. He is still working diligently to find out more about Owen Wilkinson's service during World War I.
"We are still receiving information from the U.S. Army regarding Wilkinson's service, and if the facts they're giving us right now pan out, there is a big story waiting on him. Something that could alter not only Casey County and Liberty history but state history as well," he says. "There's also at least one other notable person, a lady, buried in the cemetery, whose story we are uncovering a bit at a time. Hers will be a significant one to share as well. Honestly, there is no telling the kind of stories that may eventually come out of this."
It’s truly incredible to see what God can do with a willing heart! Bless Glen and all of the time and work he has put into honoring a man he never even knew. We know God will continue to bless his efforts!
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Credit: Casey News