By Michael Isam
St. Augustine, Fla, (January 18, 2014) – Veterans do as veterans learned. Carry out the objective as quickly and completely as possible, with as few casualties as possible.
In this case, the objective was to remove the wreaths decorating the 1218 graves in the St. Augustine National Cemetery. The wreaths were placed in a solemn ceremony on December 14, 2013 as part of the annual ‘Wreaths Across America’ project.
More than 30 people, veterans and civilian, took on the task in daunting atypical Florida weather. The wind-chill factor read 31 degrees. Casualty rate: zero.
Broom and rake handles, rope, and a metal pipe or two were the implements of choice. One disabled veteran used his cane. Overall, the most popular was the forearm. In the typical efficient military fashion, the job was done in less than 45 minutes versus the hour-plus to disburse them. The dumpsters on the side street filled in short time and the remaining wreaths were stacked in typical neat-nick military fashion.
Of the 1218 graves in the St. Augustine National Cemetery, one grave stood out. The grave was specially adorned with a Teddy Bear and flower decoration. What made it special among the rest? The person interred was 10 years-old when they passed.
When asked about the future of the Teddy Bear, St. Augustine National Cemetery grounds-keeper, Roy Bartell said, “It will stay there until I remove it.” “Every year, around the birthday of the person interred,” said Bartell, “a flower arrangement and a toy appear.” “I leave it until I feel compelled to remove it,” continued Bartell, “someone feels very strongly about people interred here and I do what I can to help keep the memory last.”