ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Colonel Dave Rodgers is collecting soil from all over the world.
The Florida National Guardsman pulled the soil -- which is kept in Ziplock bags -- from shelves at the Florida National Guard Headquarters in St. Augustine.
Rodgers is on a mission, gathering soil from battlefields or air bases where Florida National Guardsmen have served, fought, and died dating back the 1840s.
That soil will be sprinkled on the parade field in front of the Headquarters for the Florida National Guard Headquarters in St. Augustine where ceremonies take place.
Rodgers knew Fort Benning in Georgia had done something similar.
So he took the idea to the Florida National Guard Historian Gregory Moore.
"I said, 'Greg, here's an idea I got. What do you think?'"
Moore said he thought, "Oh, my gosh. If we decide to do this, we'll be going around the world looking for dirt!"
That's because the Florida National Guard has literally served around the world and in different places in the United States.
Rodgers admitted, he did not initially realize this would become such an international task.
He said he'd take on the challenge to get the soil.
In November, Rodgers sent boxes with instructions to defense attaches at US embassies asking for soil and it has arrived and more is still coming in.
"I knew they would all come through because they said they would," Rodgers smiled.
Now, bags are in St. Augustine from places such as Japan, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Kuwait, Mexico, and Jordan.
"Where we have gotten this soil, Florida guardsmen have died. I know US soldiers have died," Rodgers noted.
A ceremony will take place on the parade field to sprinkle the collected soil. Rodgers estimates that will happen in about a year. Moore and Rodgers would like to incorporate it into St. Augustine's 450th celebration.
Ultimately, Rodgers aims to collect soil from major battles which range from the Seminole Indian War, the Civil War, up to Operation Iraqi Freedom and everything in between.
The textures vary too. Kuwait sent sand. Rocks came from Jordan. Moist clay-like soil came from Japan.
All of it is sacred.
"It is blessed by the blood of not just American soldiers, but by soldiers who came from Florida," Moore noted. "I get goosebumps thinking about how this will be when we put it on the parade field here."
Rodgers added, "It actually brings it home to St. Augustine."
It's soil from faraway lands, where guardsmen have served, that will make an already special field ... sacred.
First Coast News