GSM cemeteries

Hundreds of headstones decorated for the Christmas holiday are shown in this photo of Arlington National Cemetery.

Many of our veterans are resting peacefully at national cemeteries, heroes who died in service to country or after having lived long lives after their service.

Christmas is a perfect time to donate your time cleaning headstones of those who lie in sacred ground.

Find an organization to help

The first step to being a steward for the graves of deceased heroes is to find an organization that does this kind of work.

NPR found Floridian Andrew Lumish a few years back scrubbing grime from the headstone of a World War I veteran.

Lumish, who had cleaned about 600 veterans’ headstones at that point, said he restores them out of respect for those who died and to learn about how they lived.

Among the stories he’s discovered: A veteran born in 1840 who was shot and returned to combat with a bullet in his lower back, a Civil War veteran wounded at the Battle of Shiloh and a 21-year-old whose headstone reads, “You have died for the world, but not for your parents.”

Inspiring others

Lumish’s Facebook page, “Good Cemeterian,” has caught notice, having received thousands of hits, according to NPR. One of those scanning the page was Paul Heimel, a county commissioner of Pennsylvania’s Potter County. Using Lumish as a consultant, the county began a project to clean the tombstones of veterans buried there.

“To have a veteran’s stone fall apart and then have his name covered by moss and lichens just isn’t right,” Heimel says. “But the part that we really need to restore and permanently save is the record of who that person was. This is an opportunity to restore some of the dignity and honor that they have earned.”

Said Lumish: “We uncover heroes. They were not considered heroes of their day, so I hope that some of the stories that I tell make people appreciate the men and women that serve currently. There are heroes today that surround us on a daily basis.”

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