Man on solo mission to restore thousands of Veterans’ tombstones before Memorial Day

Because of the overgrowth of algae and debris it takes a special chemical compound to have the tombstones remain in good condition.
Published: May. 21, 2023 at 6:16 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - One man is on a mission to clean up every Veteran tombstone, at Springdale Cemetery, by Memorial Day.

What was a one-man mission, is now sparking a movement.

“I went to go find his grave. I couldn’t find it or see it, nothing,” begins John Miller-Ross, the Founder of Honor Their Sacrifice.

With the stroke of the brush, each of the hundreds of Veterans’ tombstones are being cleaned; like new.

Miller-Ross started Honor Their Sacrifice while on a search for his own step-grandfather’s gravesite, ”I did ancestry DNA test and found out I had a lot of family members buried right here in springdale cemetery approximately 70.”

Once cleaned, he looked around at the rest and suddenly it clicked, ”when I cleaned it, I saw how clean it was compared to the rest of the stones out here and I wanted to do more. I wanted every Veterans’ stone to look the same as my grandfathers’.”

Realizing the task ahead of him he reached out to a local VFW in Peoria Heights for help.

Eric Thurman, the Quartermaster for VFW#2602 in Peoria Heights helped to gain financing. Thurman initially raised $1,000 for the efforts but says ”since then we’ve done another $4,000 to get more chemicals to get to as many graves we can get done before Memorial Day.”

On Sunday, friends, families and strangers whom he just met, came out to volunteer and join in on the enormous task.

Strangers like Nicolas Greer and his mom, who were already out looking for a good clean up activity in the cemetery themselves.

Nicolas says, knowing, “families of the people that passed away in World War II can see clean graves and get to know who they are.”

Yet there are still hundreds of tombstones left in just this part of the cemetery.

Miller-Ross says with the volunteers who came out on Sunday, they are closer to his initial end goal, ”I’ve done personally 142. Total with the volunteers we’ve done 320 and we have approximately 16 to 1,700 left.”

He will be out at Springdale Cemetery cleaning up the tombstones every day until Memorial Day.