SARASOTA COUNTY - There are holidays to honor those who served in the military and sacrificed all. But what about those who care for their graves? A grass roots organization that says military cemetery workers are often forgotten has set out to change that.
And because of one woman's determination, some local workers are getting the credit they deserve.
The group of about 50 workers and volunteers are responsible for every aspect of the cemetery upkeep, and Wednesday their hard work and dedication paid off.
"You never think about working at a cemetery, but I like it; I like helping people, and you’re helping people that are having the worst day of their lives, and you try to help them along." David Trout is one of the 11 workers and about 40 volunteers who take care of the Sarasota National Cemetery -- and their work is being noticed.
"I’m very, very pleased I chose here. It’s like going to Arlington or any national cemetery. The people that take care of the grounds just do such a fabulous job," says visitor Judith Ligon.
Many of those people have served in the U.S. military in some capacity. Trout is a former Iraq vet. But now he's dedicated his time to serve those who have also served our country. "I really believe it’s our duty to that vet that we are burying, and their family; that’s an honor for me."
But for Gerry Tausch, the founder of Grass Roots 4 the Troops, the cemetery workers deserve more. And she set out to pay them tribute. "It crossed my mind that maybe they never had anyone do it, and it just bothered me terribly because I thought, ‘they have such a tough job’."
Tausch was right. The cemetery workers had never been honored. And she says understanding the emotional strain that comes with their job drove her to organize Wednesday's ceremony. "I kept thinking if no one is doing anything for them when they face this hardships every day of going there knowing they’re going to be dealing with grief, and especially if they are veterans themselves who've experienced it so much, on the ground, or in the air, or wherever. I think they need some support."
And after weeks of planning, on Wednesday the group was presented with thank you bags and recognition for their hard work. "I never think of being honored. It’s my job and I really believe it’s our duty…and at the end of the service when I’m trying to help out the family and they say ‘thank you’, that’s enough for me," says Trout.
Now despite those feelings, the cemetery workers say they were extremely grateful when the volunteers from Grass Roots 4 the Troops presented them with thank you bags and recognition for their hard work.