Rico Rodriguez, left, and David Thompson, both of MALS 31 at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, team up to make short work of cleaning head stones.

When it doesn’t feel like work

By Bob Sofaly

What started out as two men watching an air show and just chit-chatting, ended up engaging hundreds of volunteers to pick up buckets and brushes and take part in a major spring cleaning at Beaufort National Cemetery without any formal planning or strategy.

Craig Arsell, Director of the Beaufort National Cemetery, said Sgt. David Terry was standing next to him while watching the Blue Angels in the MCAS air show recently and the two began talking. When Sgt.Terry learned Arsell was the cemetery’s new director, he asked what he could do as a volunteer.

Craig quipped, “Come wash all 21,000 head stones”.

David, an aviation technician with MALS 31 at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, took the challenge and ran with it. Originally he got the Marines in his shop to sign up to help. But he ended up with hundreds of volunteers willingly scrubbing away. Some had learned about the effort through mutual friends. Others learned about it through the MCAS Public Affairs Office, or by television clips or from social media and they simply showed up ready to help. Craig said it only took four weeks to get things organized from start to finish.

Craig said the clean-up involves more than just washing headstones. It encourages community involvement and provides a wonderful “teaching moment for our kids”.

David agreed adding, “It really feels great. This cemetery is part of history. It’s for the living, not the dead. This place is a shrine for everybody and needs to be well kept. Look at the school children, active duty and retired military and family members plus a small group of preschoolers, all pitching in to do their part.”

Craig said after the head stones were all washed, grass would be replanted around them giving the cemetery a fresh, spruced up look.

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