Tampa Rough Riders help clean up cemetery - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa Rough Riders help clean up cemetery

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Near the front of Myrtle Hill Cemetery in Tampa stood a flagpole and a group of fading and cracked monuments.

The headstones around the monuments were twisted, covered with mildew and overgrown with grass. Tampa resident Kendall Stahl was doing the best he could to maintain the graves but he needed help. The graves are of veterans of the Spanish American War.

Stahl wrote to the President of the Rough Riders in Tampa, asking if his organization could do anything to improve the situation of the cemetery.

For the purposes of full disclosure, this reporter is also the President of that organization.

The 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment "Rough Riders" Inc. was formed in 1978 to honor the memory of Teddy Roosevelt and the original Rough Riders who fought in the Spanish American War.

Stahl thought the club would be the best group to help maintain the markers and monuments at Myrtle Hill.

"When I first contacted you, uh the Rough Riders, the stones were all below ground, they were all sideways and overgrown with grass and it was actually in pretty poor condition," Stahl said.

Stahl's great aunt, 97-year-old Ettamae Johnson Brown is the daughter of one of the Spanish American War veterans buried at the cemetery. She still recalls meetings of the Spanish American War Veterans Women's Auxiliary on the grounds of what is now the University of Tampa.

"They met, I believe once a month and they had a large group of ladies," Brown said. "The ladies too took care of that cemetery."

Since the Women's Auxiliary is no longer around, the modern Rough Riders quickly volunteered to help.

The base of the flagpole was cracked, a large piece of concrete was missing from the base. A lighting strike may have blown the chunk of concrete off. George Conlan, a Rough Rider with construction expertise patched the concrete.

Brass markers on the memorial were removed, stripped down and hand painted to bring them back to their original condition.

"Well it's important because we want to remember these guys who fought for our country and gave, some of them gave their lives for our country, but these guys need to be remembered," said Rough Rider John Werner.

The general manager of Myrtle Hill also had his maintenance staff assist the club. They removed overgrown shrubbery, straightened and leveled the headstones and removed old grass and replanted the area with fresh sod.

Rough Riders cleaned each headstone and carefully repainted the monuments to their original color.

Kendahl Stahl couldn't get over the difference, "To be honest, it's the difference between night and day."

His great aunt Ettamae Johnson Brown, was beaming with pride.

"You know when we stop to think, all these veterans that we have from over there, they're very important what they contributed to this country," she said.

She added the work will keep the veterans from being forgotten.

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