Groups come together to clean veterans’ headstones

volunteers clean veterans' headstones in Charlottesville
volunteers clean veterans' headstones in Charlottesville(WVIR)
Updated: May. 29, 2021 at 11:59 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - At Oakwood Cemetery in Charlottesville, more than 600 veterans lie in their final resting places. This Memorial Day weekend, volunteers are making sure their legacy and sacrifice to freedom live on.

Spraying the headstones, followed by a thorough scrub, and then the placement of an American Flag is the process to making all 647 veterans’ graves squeaky clean this weekend.

“Physically, you’re touching marble and getting dirty. You are sacrificing your time for them to honor them,” founder of Do Good Cville, Kerry Rock said.

His nonprofit, along with the Chris Long Foundation and many volunteers are the ones getting their hands dirty to make the headstones shine. The event has grown in the last few years.

“We started with just myself, then three people, then 20, and now about 80 volunteers that came out of nowhere,” Rock said.

While chemicals give each headstone a new look, it’s the names engraved on them, that make the work worthwhile.

“It’s not for fanfare or glory. It’s really just to remember those who have died for our country,” veteran Bellamy Brown said.

While he hammers American flags next to each grave site, he’s also hammering home the true meaning of Memorial Day.

“For me it’s just that patriotism that continues the memory of those who served and I think that’s ultimately what it’s about,” Brown said.

“It’s like we celebrate this holiday and I feel like a lot of people don’t even know the real meaning of it or don’t even stop to know the real meaning of it,” founder of the Chris Long Foundation, Chris Long said.

For Long, these headstones share the story that freedom doesn’t come free.

“It’s interesting to read the names to see when these folks lived and and kind of imagine what kind of what things they were called to do,” Long said.

Rock says you don’t have to be at events like this to honor Memorial Day.

“Just take five minutes this weekend, stop doing what you’re doing, put the phone down,” Rock said. “Just think of those who came before you say ‘thanks.’”

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