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A group of veterans from Tallahassee are doing their best to honor the service of fallen soldiers they never knew by visiting their graves in South Georgia and North Florida. The group made their way to Cairo on Friday and spent time at the graves of five Vietnam veterans laid to rest in the Cairo and Greenwood cemeteries.
Vietnam veteran David Wilson, 72, was joined by two fellow veterans, John Haynes and Charles Lecroy, both in their 90s. Haynes served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, according to Wilson, and Lecroy was in both Korea and Vietnam. Wilson says they try to visit a different cemetery each Friday.
“I try to do a little research on each man,” he says.”(At the graveside) we talk like he’s there, and we thank God that there were men like him who answered the call.”
After the brief ceremony, the veterans leave a flag and a painted rock with the word “hero” inscribed on it.
Friday, they visited the graves of James Curtiss Roland and Lawrence Allen Whitfield in the Cairo Cemetery, and Carlton Jerry Johnson, Edward Wray Kines and Robert Russell Rogers in the Greenwood Cemetery.
Last year, they visited Samuel Viel Bulloch Jr., and Carl Lee Palmer, both buried in Macedonia Baptist Church Cemetery, Wilson says.
“We want to continue the tradition of decorating these graves after people like me are gone,” says Wilson.
The idea to start such an endeavor came to him after touring Fort Benning with his friend Col. Danny McKnight (ret.) who Wilson says leaves rocks at the graves of the men who died under his command.
“I thought about it, and I thought that is such a good thing. I’ve always thought our Vietnam veterans were not treated right. They answered our country’s call and they deserve to be treated with respect,” Wilson says.
He says a local company donates the rocks to him, and he paints them to include the soldier’s name and the word “hero.”
“We don’t care what you do with it, we just want the family to know we were here and somebody visited,” Wilson says of the rocks.
Wilson conducts his research, including locating the graves in the cemetery, each Monday. He says Freddy Thomas with the City of Cairo was especially helpful in his search last week.
Since he began his project in March 2019, Wilson estimates he has left rocks at 100 graves, and says he plans to continue the honor ceremonies as long as possible.