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American Legion asks for volunteers in gravestone cleaning

MADISON – A selfless, valuable gesture of respect and patriotism will be available for volunteers with a project that an American Legion group has scheduled.

Madison American Legion, Auxiliary Unit 229 will host the fifth annual Veterans Gravestone Cleaning event on Nov. 4 at 11 a.m. “This year, we will be cleaning the stones in the Civil-War-era cemetery, south of Mill Road at the intersection of Mill Road and Maple Street,” Jean Downs said. Downs serves as President of Unit 229, American Legion Auxiliary, and Vice-Commander of American Legion, Post 229.

“Each year, we clean the gravestones after the flags have been placed (on veterans’ graves) for Veterans Day. This way, it’s easy for participants to identify the proper stones to clean,” Downs said.

“In the past, we have had excellent participation from our Junior ROTC units and other school organizations at Bob Jones and James Clemens high schools, Girl Scouts in Service Unit 212 in Madison and participation from other members of the community,” Downs said.

The purpose of the cleaning is not only to make the stones presentable but also to preserve them and help prevent future decay, she said. “We use a specific cleaning solution recommended by the Alabama Historical Commission that not only removes the existing biofouling but leaves behind a protective layer on the stones to prevent future damage.”

Biofouling refers to the growth and accumulation of living organisms on a structural piece. Eventually, the invasive materials will have negative impact on the structure’s use and appearance (corrosionpedia.com). The cleaning results in a remarkable transformation of the marker, she said.

American Legion rotates among the various cemeteries and different plot areas within each of Madison’s cemeteries each year. “The Civil-War-era cemetery on the southside of Mill Road was the first cemetery we worked on, and now it’s time to circle back to clean those stones again,” Downs said.

“The transformation of the gravestones and markers once they have been cleaned is incredible,” Downs said. “This (work) is such an important service project because, it not only preserves the stones, but helps us preserve the memory of those that have served our country.”

Madison has three municipal cemeteries: Madison Cemetery, north of Mill Road and south of City Hall; Madison Memory Gardens, west on Hughes Road and just north of City Hall; and Old Madison Cemetery.

For more information, email AlAux229@yahoo.com or visit Facebook/American Legion Post 229, Madison, Alabama or alamadison229.org.

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