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Local Boy Scouts assist American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 at Fogartyville Cemetery service on Memorial Day

BRADENTON -- He may be only 16, but Chandler Shepard worked hard Monday morning to honor the sacrifices of veterans who came long before him.

Shepard and his Boy Scout Troop 181 assisted with the American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 Memorial Day service at Fogartyville Cemetery.

Participating in the service, said Shepard, was partially for scouting and partially for properly recognizing America's veterans.

"It's for remembering and honoring the vets," Shepard said.

Shepard's father and the scout master of Troop 181, Doug Shepard, said the Scouts' service in the Memorial Day event teaches them about the past.

"It's so the youth can be aware of the sacrifices men and women have made so they can enjoy the freedoms and privileges they have every day," Doug Shepard said.

Sixteen Boy Scouts and one Girl Scout participated in the service at Fogartyville Cemetery. The 16 Boy Scouts are "about 95 percent" of Troop 181, their scout master said.

Chandler Shepard, a sophomore at Braden River High School, spearheaded the troop's project. He gave a dedication speech and the rest of the troop helped present the colors for the ceremony. Another Scout helped present a flag for each branch of the military, and one helped raise the American flag. One visiting member from a different troop sang the national anthem.

The American Legion Kirby Stew

art Post 24 presented a flag to Robert Pelot Jr., one of Stewart's descendants. About 150 people turned out for the service at Fogartyville Cemetery.

Before the ceremony, the troop had cleaned Lt. Kirby Stewart's gravesite and some of the surrounding tombstones, using chlorine and a pressure washer. Chandler Shepard volunteered the time and service, even as he is recuperating from a lacrosse injury and knee surgery.

Monday morning's event was three weeks' post-surgery for him, but even before he went into the operating room, Doug Shepard said his son was tying up loose ends for the project.

"He was out here in his brace getting it finished," Doug Shepard said. "He's a trooper."

Bill King, a member of Fogartyville Cemetery's board of directors, has veterans in his family. His father and uncle were both World War I veterans. He understands the importance of taking time on Memorial Day to remember the sacrifices his relatives and other veterans made.

"It's to honor the veterans," King said. "The cemetery is just the resting place. It's a special day and we need to be reverend about it."

Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.