Army Veteran replacing unmarked military graves, fixing broken headstones


Brown County Army Veteran Kelly McCauley has been replacing unmarked military graves, fixing broken headstones and conducting Honor Guard ceremonies to honor those who have fallen.

McCauley joined the Army in 1986 and retired in 2014 from the Army Reserves. He is now the American Legion Post 13 Commander. McCauley’s sisters, Nancy Walke and Ronda McCauley, believe he deserves recognition for his work on the gravestones.

“He has done a lot for the Brown County community, and he doesn’t need recognition because he loves doing it, but we think he needs recognition,” said Ronda.

McCauley said in 2022 the Historical Society and Cemetery Association had located a number of Civil War and the War of 1812 graves. Buddy Mercer used to set the veteran gravestones and when he passed suddenly, McCauley decided to take on the responsibility.

“I can’t even describe in words what it means to go out there and honor the veteran and get the chance to set Civil War grave markers,” said McCauley. “Hopefully by the end of this year we can set them all.”

So far, McCauley has set four Civil War gravestones dating back over a century: David Petro, Drury Elkins, John Berry and Abraham Crabb. Petro’s grave had been unmarked for 109 years and Berry’s grave had been unmarked for 113 years.

McCauley said they have also been offering an Honor Guard ceremony for all of the veterans’ next of kin which both Petro and Elkin’s families partook in. He has also placed an American flag on every veteran’s grave in the county.

“I don’t know anyone who’s set four to five gravestones in their lifetime, and I’ve done that this year,” said McCauley. “It’s kind of a different feeling to go out there and set a stone on a 100-year-old grave. It’s very rewarding.”

McCauley said he’s going to be involved with setting up every Civil War gravestone, and he’s doing the procedure exactly how they set them up in the Civil War times.

“The stone weighs 97 pounds and it’s hard to get it into my vehicle alone,” said McCauley. “They’re very heavy granite headstones that are 36 inches long and 18 inches above and below ground.”

McCauley’s brother Joe helped him set gravestones for both Berry and Crabb and said he was honored when his brother asked him for help. Joe is also a veteran and served in Desert Storm with the Marines from 1989 to 1997.

“It’s like a piece of history that wasn’t available to be seen, so we put in these gravestones so other people could appreciate the history of the Civil War,” said Joe. “It’s a part of history that we are now keeping alive.”

Ronda said she and her sisters wanted to recognize McCauley because he truly believes this is an important job.

“He thinks it’s absolutely critical that we recognize those who have sacrificed their lives,” said Ronda. “Patriotism is what we need to bring this country back and he’s willing to go out and do that for the community, and we couldn’t be more proud of him.”

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