SALEM (CBS) — For this small army, it only takes patriotism and some elbow grease to make a difference.

Ken McKay Jr. and a group of about two dozen volunteers have been cleaning the aging headstones of military veterans for six years.

headstones1 Giving Back: Volunteers Clean Gravestones Of Veterans

Volunteers clean headstones at Greenlawn Cemetery (WBZ-TV)

“The greatest causality is being forgotten; we’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said McKay.

The group is closing in on 3000 headstones throughout Salem, Beverly, and Swampscott.

On Sunday, they did their duty at the Greenlawn Cemetery in Salem.

headstones2 Giving Back: Volunteers Clean Gravestones Of Veterans

Ken McKay Jr. (WBZ-TV)

“This is all I can do, this is my way to give back,” said McKay. He tried to enlist in every branch of the military but his disability held him back.

“I’m just a blue collar, regular guy,” he said. “I’m happy to be able to organize volunteers to come out and do what needs to be done.”

Cleaning starts by wetting the gravestones. Then, they are sprayed with a special solution made to clean off biological growth and keep it off for a decade or more.

If a stone is fallen, they reset it. If a stone is broken, they file the paperwork to get a new marker. Some of the headstones go back to the American Revolution.

headstones3 Giving Back: Volunteers Clean Gravestones Of Veterans

McKay cleaning a headstone (WBZ-TV)

While McKay said the team accepts donations for supplies, they have to put up some money themselves.

“This is the least we can do for those that have stood and some that have died to ensure that we have the freedom we have today.”


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