Staff and consumers of the Arc of Washington-Holmes Counties, Inc. are working to honor veterans by restoring grave markers at their final resting place.
For Arc Community Project Coordinator Glenn Craft, the organization’s most recent community service project is deeply personal.
“My dad was a veteran, and I have several friends who are veterans,” said Craft. “Dad was a member of AMVETS and Veterans of Foreign Wars, and I just grew up around his friends and fellow veterans. The pride in what they did was deeply ingrained in me.”
The Arc center, which serves individuals with varying disabilities, offers volunteer opportunities to highlight its consumers’ abilities, as well as provide a way for them to give back to the community.
Craft says the idea for the newest project came after meeting with Chipley Mayor Tracy Andrews to find new service opportunities for that program.
“She mentioned we could look into possible work at the city cemeteries, so I decided to take a look,” said Craft. “I started with Northside Cemetery in Chipley.”
It didn’t take long for Craft to know where to focus his efforts.
“The first thing I noticed when I pulled up was the veterans’ graves being grown up, and I knew right there that needed to be the priority,” he said. “I looked up on YouTube how to properly clean the headstones because there is a right and a wrong way to care for them. Those markers are actually property of the federal government, and there are guidelines for their care. You have to use certain solutions and brushes.”
Craft began the project – dubbed “Glory to Graves” – last week alongside an Arc consumer who volunteered to help in honor of his father who served in the U.S. Navy.
Together, the pair cleared the area around the graves, brushed away loose debris and set to washing away decades of wear and weather before adding the final touch: a new American flag.
Craft states the transformation was more than satisfying; it was an emotional experience.
“Just to see the difference after we got through cleaning the headstones, I was in tears,” he said. “It’s such a small thing for those who served that made a big difference. It left visual representation of how we appreciate their sacrifice. We are restoring those markers to their former glory. If we can do something like this to honor our veterans at their final resting place, that’s what it’s all about.”
Craft says Glory to Graves will be an ongoing project, and he hopes to coordinate in both Holmes and Washington counties to perform work for veterans’ graves in every cemetery.
For more information, or to donate to this project, contact Craft at 850-638-7517, ext. 116.