By Helen Anne Travis, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Thursday, November 12, 2009
BUSHNELL — Saint Leo University professor Frank Arnold brushed
the dirt from his hands and the tears from his eyes as he tried to
explain why he was laying mulch Wednesday at the Florida National
It was the school's annual fall community service day and Arnold
could have been working with kids at the Boys and Girls Club or
volunteering at the Humane Society.
Instead, he and about 15 students and professors were unloading
mulch from the back of tractors and spreading it in planters
throughout the veterans cemetery.
"These are my brothers and sisters," said the 70-year-old
retired Air Force colonel, referring to the more than 100,000
buried under the cemetery's rows of gray, evenly spaced markers.
"Until you put your life on the line with others, you can't
appreciate that relationship."
"This was a way of paying back," said fellow professor and
retired Air Force veteran Mike Moorman, 68.
The two men had nearly 50 years of military service between
them, but there they were, raking mulch in a light drizzle on a
holiday in their honor.
"You can never pay back enough," Moorman said.
Throughout the cemetery, about 30 university students
participated in maintenance projects. Some laid mulch, others
stained wooden bridges.
For a few hours, they nearly tripled the cemetery ground
"It would take one employee a week to do this by himself," said
Edward Brown, maintenance foreman. "It's saving us so much money
The students, many in the school honors program, were
respectful, he said. And open.
"You tell them they're on hallowed grounds. I think that wakes
them up, especially on Veterans Day."
Earlier on Wednesday, the cemetery's 514 acres teemed with
visitors as an estimated 2,500 came for its Veterans Day
U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, who said her husband is interred
there, spoke about the importance of honoring the sacrifice of
The Hernando High School band played Taps in the rain.
The sky cleared just in time for the singing of God Bless The
USA. Those who could rose from their metal chairs, strollers and
wheelchairs to hold hands and sing along.
During the benediction, chaplain Harold Marcou of the Florida
National Cemetery Joint Veterans Committee told crowd members he
loved them all.
"Your family is resting here, that makes you a part of my
family," Marcou said.
The crowd dispersed to visit the graves of friends and family
after the ceremony. The cemetery was mostly cleared by the time the
Saint Leo University students arrived.
Still, sophomore Grant Posner, 19, said it felt good to know
that his efforts would be noticed the next time those loved ones
came to visit.
"We want to make an impact on the veterans and their families,"
Kathleen Carr, 18, a freshman whose great grandparents are
buried at Arlington National Cemetery, summed up many of her peers'
"It just feels right," she said.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at email@example.com or (813)