ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. - Students from Zephyrhills High School honored their country and local community in a special way: Cleaning the headstones of more than 400 military veterans buried at Oakside Cemetery.

What You Need To Know

  • Junior ROTC students organized event

  • Flags retired; "We’re trying to be as respectful as possible,” said Cadet Captain James Laferriere

  • Cadet instructor says it brings honor to the program

  • More Pasco County headlines

Junior ROTC students organized the event that they call Project Patriotism.

It started with the ceremonial retirement of US flags, that are worn or tattered, donated from the community.

They were each placed in a fire along with a salute, considered the respectful way to retire them, per the US flag code.

“Whenever we retire a flag, this is how we do it. We’re trying to be as respectful as possible,” said Cadet Captain James Laferriere.

Laferriere led fellow students in the ceremony, which included cleaning the headstones of veterans buried at Oakside. He says there are 446 buried there.

Cadets scrubbed each headstone, rinsed them and placed an American flag.

“I enjoy coming out here, honoring my veterans and respecting them,” Laferriere said.

It meant a lot to City Manager Bill Poe, as the city donated some cleaning supplies to help.

“My dad was a 41-year veteran of the Army Reserve,” Poe said. “He is buried in this cemetery. So, it’s a special place in my heart. To see the youth stepping up is big.”

The cadets’ instructor, US Army 1st Sgt. Jimmy Mcauley, says his students organized project patriotism for months.

It’s something his program has done for now six years straight.

“It’s a tremendous thing for me to see my cadets out here doing this. Because it brings honor to the program. It also gives them a sense of self. Letting them support their community,” Mcauley said.

“I enjoy coming out here,” Cadet Laferriere said. “I’m making sure that my community is looking the best it can.