MCKINNEY, Texas -- Aaron Brewer used to be like many people in North Texas, he had never heard of Ross Cemetery in McKinney.
"It was hard to find," he said.
The military veteran now knows the cemetery well after he and about a dozen other North Texas veterans spent the day cleaning weathered headstones and decorating soldiers' graves ahead of Memorial Day.
Ross Cemetery was founded in the 1800s, a time when even death was segregated. The cemetery is right behind Pecan Grove, one of North Texas' most famous cemeteries where many local leaders and settlers were buried. While many people know Pecan Grove, few have heard of Ross, and the grounds and headstones show signs of neglect. Local military historian Colin Kimble hopes that will change.
"It makes you angry but this is why we're here," he said. "It's about honoring these men who did so much for their country."
Kimball and the other veterans spent the day washing the headstones, in some cases removing over a century of buildup. The older grave belongs to Walter Faulkner, an African American soldier who served around the time of the Spanish American War. Soldiers from that time were referred to as "Buffalo Soldiers."
"It was a term of respect given to them by the Native Americans," Kimball said. "The Native Americans said buffalo would fight to the death and they saw that in these men as well."
Many of the servicemen buried at Ross served a segregated military, risking and sacrificing their lives for a country that still didn't honor their rights.
"These men would serve with the expectation they'd be afforded the same privileges as white folks at the time," Kimball said. "Unfortunately, that didn't happen and they were often forgotten."
The group cleaning the headstones calls themselves "Our Brothers' Keepers" and say it's their honor to serve the men who served the country before them.
The group says they'll continue helping keep us the cemetery so others can come and learn about a chapter of history that's often overlooked. "Our Brothers' Keepers" is a join effort between Collin County veterans court and American Legion post 110.
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