Florida veteran Trae Zipperer believes the grave sites of American soldiers is “hallowed ground,” and he’s leading a charge to ensure they’re treated as such.
“It’s called ‘By Memorial Day,’ and it came out of a 12,000 mile journey that I took to visit all of the graves of my ancestors across five states – 80 different cemeteries,” Zipperer told FOX 4. “I discovered what was happening in cemeteries, so I focused on taking care of headstones and maintenance of cemeteries.
“And then I realized veteran headstones were covered in black algae, and so I found out how to clean them properly and found out why they were not being maintained properly and discovered there’s no federal protocol on how to handle these veteran headstones that aren’t located in national cemeteries.”
The neglect inspired Zipperer to organize a national, non-profit volunteer effort to clean all veteran headstones outside the national cemeteries – By Memorial Day – and he’s kicking off the effort with Veteran Headstone Cleaning Day slated for Saturday.
“We believe every veteran headstone should be maintained in a clean, respectable, and like-new condition as if it belongs in Arlington,” according to the group’s website. “We serve to inspire patriotic Americans in every town, in every corner of our great land, to organize a group of local volunteers to visit each cemetery nearby for the purpose of identifying veteran headstones in need of cleaning.
“Once identified, volunteers will use the protocol provided by the National Cemeteries Administration to properly clean each veteran headstone.”
It a massive undertaking that Zipperer said is well worth the effort.
“What’s happening in America right now is we’re losing our veteran population. We had 16 million Americans that fought in World War II, that’s a gigantic population of veterans,” he said in a December video. “Everyone’s father, brother, grandfather, husband was in the war.
“Today, we’ve lost touch with that generation, the Greatest Generation, so today’s population is losing its focus on veterans. That’s why we see veteran headstones covered in black algae. That’s why we have to battle with different groups just to have permission to clean veteran headstones.”
Zipperer explained that bureaucracy and other barriers complicate efforts to clean veteran headstones and he’s appealing to the Commander in Chief to take action to change the dynamic.
“I want President Trump to get involved. I want him to create an executive order that all veteran headstones will be clean by Memorial Day 2020,” Zipperer said. “Number one, he needs to get with the Veteran’s Administration. The Veteran’s Administration has to create rule … that says if you follow a certain protocol, you have the right to volunteer to clean a veteran headstone issued by the Veteran’s Administration.”
In many cases, that duty falls on family members of those who fought for freedom, he said.
“Those stones are owned by the taxpayers,” Zipperer said. “Americans who care about veterans, that’s who should take care of those stones.
“A lot of these young men and women died before they were married, before they had children, so they have no descendants to clean their stone. So we as Americans – there’s a lot of patriotic people following my movement – they want to help,” he said.
“There are people who say, ‘oh, we don’t have men and women like we had for World War II.’ That’s not true. We do. We have amazing men and women in America today that will rally to the cause and come to the aid of America, if necessary,” Zipperer said.
“Thank God we haven’t had to do that because of our veterans, so we need to take care of our veteran headstones … get them clean and make them look like they belong in Arlington.”