Tallahassee Remembers WWI Veterans

WWI Wreath Ceremony Tallahassee National Cemetery
Posted at 6:05 PM, Apr 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-06 14:55:48-04

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) -- It was 100 years ago Thursday, that the United States entered into World War I. The U.S. involvement in the war started after the German Empire attacked American ships. President Woodrow Wilson asked congress to declare war against the German Empire, which they did on April 6, 1917.

As a way to commemorate the day, national cemeteries across the country were asked to host a wreath laying ceremony, including right here in the Capital City.

Tallahassee only recently became home to a national cemetery, after 250 acres of land were bought from the St. Joe Paper Company. The processes of converting this plot of land into a cemetery began in October of 2014, with the first burials taking place a year later. While most of the cemetery, which stretches from Apalachee Parkway to Old St. Augustine Road, is empty an field, it is expected that burials will continue for the next hundred years. 

One of the key factors in deciding the location of a national cemetery is the population of veterans in the area. Once the cemetery is built and open, the community becomes the support system.

"The community is so supportive here; of the National Cemetery and also of the VA Clinic that was built.," says Raymond Miller, the director of Tallahassee National Cemetery. "That's the key, I think, to the existence and the support of the cemetery is simply because the community supports it so well."

And the community does support the cemetery. In fact, dozens of veterans and other locals came out for the cemetery's World War I wreath ceremony.

Obviously, before Tallahassee National Cemetery, veterans were buried elsewhere, even in Oakland Cemetery. This cemetery has an entire corner dedicated to veterans from all wars, with even more buried in family plots throughout.

One of the soldiers you'll find resting at Oakland is none other that Claude Sauls, the first Tallahassean killed in World War I. And if his name sounds familiar, it's because the American Legion hall at Lake Ella is partially named after him.

"Our post was actually founded in 1919, right after the war," says John Folsom, the  American Legion Commander. "With Calude being the first person killed here, first Tallahasseean killed in the war, it was appropriate to have a post name. At that time it was the 'Claude Sauls American Legion Post."

Years later, the legion hall added a second name, Bridges, after Ben Bridges jr. Bridges was the first Tallahassean killed in the second world war.