Raising a salute: Antigo veteran spearheads project to lift, clean 130 military service gravestonesSubmitted: 07/28/2017

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ANTIGO - In a sea of American flags on the east side of Antigo's Elmwood Cemetery, Dick Hurlbert tries to take good care of his younger brother.

"Quite often, because I've got to water the flowers," Hurlbert said.

Daniel Hurlbert's grave is marked with a flag and a plaque for his service in the U.S. Army. The Hurlbert family placed the marker for Daniel when he died in 1999.  But last year, nature started to take control.

"It sunk on us after a number of years," Hurlbert said.

The marker shifted and settled naturally in the ground, leaving it off-center. Hurlbert -- who served for eight years in the U.S. Air Force himself -- paid more than $100 to have it fixed. Soon, he noticed dozens of similar markers had the same problem.

"And I said, 'This isn't right. Some of them you can't even, you don't know who the marker is for anymore,'" Hurlbert said.

Hurlbert took the issue to Antigo Parks, Rec and Cemetery Director Sarah Repp who agreed something needed to be done.

"The overall appearance of our cemeteries is really important," Repp said.

Repp has a pair of full-time summer workers mowing Elmwood every day. But veteran marker maintenance falls on the families themselves, so doing this work meant hiring a general contractor.

"It's a large cemetery, we have limited staff, only so many resources," Repp said.

The city approved doing the project on about 130 of the markers to be raised in two different cemetery sections. Paying for the project itself, surprisingly, wasn't all that difficult.

Hurlbert went in search of funding, called Jil Schulz at Karl's Transport in Antigo, and talked to her for just 10 minutes.

"[She said] 'It's no problem, how much money do you need?' And I told her and she wrote me a check right there on the spot," Hurlbert said.

The $5,000 check from Jil and Karl Schulz, who run a company that salutes veterans with flags on its trucks, will pay for all of the marker work.

"A very caring and generous community that we're a part of and very grateful for that," Repp said. "When you come out here, I think you'll see a noticeable difference."

It's a difference Dick Hurlbert already knows is a worthwhile salute.

"It is to me and I think it is to most veterans to one degree or another," Hurlbert said.

Work on the gravestones should start this summer and will take about a month. Hurlbert hopes to one day create a fund for ongoing maintenance of veteran gravestones.

Story By: Lane Kimble

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