A Florida man has started honoring deceased veterans in a unique way: by scrubbing clean their cemetery headstones.
Andrew Lumish has cleaned about 600 veterans' headstones to date, according to NPR. He said he decided to restore the stones as a sign of admiration and to learn about the lives of the veterans.
"At first it was to respect those who served to preserve our rights to everything that we do today and all of our freedoms," he said. "On a personal level, I have friends who served who didn't necessarily make it through. Some who died, and some who suffer from the aftereffects of war."
Lumish isn’t a veteran but he’s the owner of a cleaning company.
Accordingly, he said he knew he could help improve the look of the headstones after seeing a series of the stones in poor shape while taking photos at a cemetery. "If you were just walking or driving by, you would just see a weathered, very dirty monument and would have no idea who it belonged to," he said.
That was five years ago.
Now, each Sunday Lumish heads out to clean the gravestones of Florida’s military veterans. He brings around 25 gallons of water, a series of brushes and an environmentally safe cleaning liquid in order to get the stones back in shape.
And his project has uncovered a series of interesting tidbits, including a Civil War veteran who was hurt at the Battle of Shiloh and a 21-year-old whose headstone reads, "You have died for the world, but not for your parents."
The cleaning process, Lumish said, can last between four days to four months, depending on how dirty the stone is. Due to the nature of limestone and sandstone, it takes time for the ingrained biological matter to break away. Granite and marble gravestones are simpler to clean, Lumish said, because the dirt is usually on the surface.
The effort, he said, is “pretty messy” but worth it as part of an effort to keep the memories of the veterans alive.
"We uncover heroes," he told NPR. "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."