May 29, 2019

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson commemorates fallen soldiers post Memorial Day

Roughly 130 soldiers buried in Greenwood Cemetery off Old Bainbridge Road were not honored on Memorial Day Monday. U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, and other community leaders are working to change that.

On Wednesday afternoon, the congressman, along with the Buffalo Soldiers of Tallahassee and Tallahassee Urban League, planted American flags at 90 grave sites to commemorate the fallen soldiers who were missed Monday. The group underestimated the number of unrecognized soldiers and plan to go back to the cemetery throughout the week to finish their commemoration of the remaining sites. Greenwood is a city cemetery, and there is no requirement to mark the graves on national veterans holidays, Lawson said. Volunteer groups often take on the duty, but Greenwood as not recognized, so he rounded up some of his legislative staff and purchased the flags. "We want to make sure that they get the respect they deserve," said Lawson, whose father was a World War II veteran. “For some reason different groups are forgotten about, and we don’t want that to happen again."

Lawson said sometimes veterans are overlooked because many assume the families of soldiers will honor them. “It’s been an issue. I didn’t realize that people really didn’t go out to give recognition,” Lawson said. “I was not going to let this year go by, and next year we hope to bring more people out to help.” Jon Ausman, a retired state employee and the longest-serving Florida member of the Democratic National Committee, went to a Memorial Day event at Oakland Cemetery where veteran groups honored soldiers' grave sites. On his way home, he passed Greenwood Cemetery.

"I didn't see any activity there, so I called up Rep. Lawson," Ausman said. They called in the Buffalo Soldiers, a motorcycle club that pays homage to African Americans from the ninth and tenth Army Cavalry Regiments, to help. Lawson said in the future, the group will have a map of the cemetery so that each Memorial Day, veterans who made "the ultimate sacrifice" get the respect they deserve.

"It all starts by doing something like this today," Lawson said. “I believe every day is Memorial Day for those who fight for our freedom."

Source: T'nerra Butler | Tallahassee Democrat