Honoring Tyndall's past, Redfish Point
By 2nd Lt Kayla Fitzgerald, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 28, 2020
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The creation of Tyndall Air Force Base in 1941 resulted in the relocation of Redfish Point, an African-American community. The community’s burial grounds remained, and Tyndall assumed responsibility for their preservation.
A press event was held Feb. 28, 2020, at Massalina Cemetery on Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, to inform the public of Tyndall’s ongoing stewardship of these cemeteries.
“[Settlers] stayed here for decades, until World War II when Tyndall Air Force Base acquired the land and then these families had to move,” said Ilaria Harrach, Air Force Civil Engineer Center cultural resources program manager. “So this is kind of a big deal for us because we’re here for the first time to recognize the contribution of the African-American community to the local history, to Tyndall’s history, and to renovate our efforts in protecting these cultural resources, including the cemeteries.”
One of the few marked graves in Massalina Cemetery is that of Belle Massalina who was buried there in 1911. A member of her family was in attendance at the commemorative event.
“It means a lot to us as a family, knowing that even though the family had to move the Air Force still wants to [maintain] the grave sites,” said Lynva Narcissco Masslieno Jr., descendant of the Massalina family. “We are very appreciative of that effort.”
Along with the preservation of these cemeteries, sharing the history and heritage they represent with the local community is also a priority.
“My goal is to make sure that this story receives the powerful attention that it should,” stated Robert Cvornek, a Florida State University history professor. “I will do everything I possibly can in terms of sifting through research and disseminating that information to the community in a way that will not only preserve the history, but to commemorate those who lived here.”
Hurricane Michael’s effects on the sites and the efforts made to repair the damage caused were also addressed.
“The storm took down a lot of trees and most of the cemeteries are in remote areas so we had to cut access roads into them,” said Maj. Gavin Brost, 325th Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight commander. “Once we got it cleaned up enough, we executed a contract to come in and tear out the old fence and we put up a nice chain link fence around all the cemeteries to protect them from wildlife.”
Team Tyndall works throughout the year to maintain and preserve Massalina Cemetery and the other 10 cemeteries on base property.
“We make sure that we protect all cultural resources, including cemeteries, on federal land,” said Harrach. “The installation and the Air Force in general have been doing a really good job in taking care of the cultural resources.”