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Old 08-24-2008, 20:24   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: michigan
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Teen cleans veterans' gravestones, nears goal

GRAND RAPIDS -- An aging tombstone fades into the background, the soot and mold blending with the green-brown grass behind it, and can be easily forgotten.

But cleaning the marker with water and bleach makes it white again, catching the sunlight and reminding people: this represents a human soul.

No one knows that better than Thomas Kaminski.

The 14-year-old took upon himself this summer the task of cleaning nearly 5,000 grave markers in the Grand Rapids Veterans Cemetery. It is his Eagle Scout project. Saturday after Saturday he's toiled often with only his widowed mother and widowed grandmother for help.

It's easy to see where Kaminski already has cleaned because the light reflects again from the stones, including markers dating to the Civil War. But next weekend is the last for his project, and he still has 1,500 stones to go. And he could use some help.

"I don't know why Tom and (his mom) Margaret haven't been able to rally the troops," said Cara Newton, a Scout mom who brought her sons Brandon, 17, and Eric, 14, to help. They're part of Kaminski's Troop 325.

"Scouts try to help each other when they can, but the older Scouts work. This was a huge project," Newton said. "Tom really had a passion for this."

He's had a passion for veterans since he was little, said his grandmother, Ann Marie Kaminski. Tom's father and grandfather both died shortly before he was born, but Ann Marie Kaminski told Tom about his grandfather's service in the Army.

Responding to a need

Raised in a household of women, Tom gravitated toward the Veterans Home, visiting vets and playing games with them. The dirty tombstones have always bothered him, his grandmother said.

"It's such a worthwhile endeavor to honor the men and women who have given their lives for us," said Lucy Arndt, a friend of Ann Marie's who scrubbed with her Saturday.

Without the sacrifices of the Kaminski women, Tom's project would probably have been impossible. Ann Marie, in her 60s, has worked Saturdays, kneeling on a pad to protect her bad knees. Margaret Kaminski was injured nine years ago as a nurse, and each Saturday session of scrubbing wipes her out for most of the next week.

"This is Tom's dream," Margaret said. "I want to see him succeed. Tom's all we have. You know, your kids, you do what you can for them."

Seeking helpers

It takes about five to seven minutes to clean each marker.

"There are just so many of them," Margaret said.

Seeking help, they've approached Scouts, families of veterans and the public.

"If we get enough people, it won't take long to do," said Ann Marie. "And it would be a nice way to end the summer, doing something for men and women who did a heck of a lot for us."

Anyone willing to help with the cleaning project Saturday, between 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., may contact Thomas Kaminski at flyingeagles341@yahoo.com.

E-mail the author of this story: localnews@grpress.com
Thanks guys (and gals) for your service and RIP to the fallen
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Old 08-25-2008, 00:15   #2
Fred Hansen
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Join Date: May 2005
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There are some really great kids out there... God bless him and his family.

When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. - George Santayana
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