Organizations give back in memory of the fallen heroes of 9-11

Posted on Donna Kee

GRAFTON—As a way to help honor the lives lost on September 11, 2001, two area organizations teamed up to help clean the headstones at one of Taylor County’s national cemeteries. Volunteers from the United Way of Marion and Taylor Counties and Pierpont Community and Technical college met at approximately 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning, to participate in a service project that extended well beyond Grafton’s borders. According to Brian K. Barnes, Director of the Grafton and West Virginia National Cemeteries, the project is just one of many being held nationwide between the National Cemetery Association and the Carry The Load organization. Carry The Load is a non-profit organization that provides an active way to connect Americans to the sacrifices made daily by military, veterans, first responders and their families, according to the organization’s website, www.carrytheload.org. “What started in 2011 as a mission to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day has now grown to honoring our nation’s heroes 365 days a year,” the website states. During the morning and into the early afternoon, volunteers armed with buckets and scrub brushes worked to clean the over 1,250 headstones in the cemetery. “These are just a few of the nearly 1,700 volunteers taking part in headstone cleaning and beautification projects in approximately 40 national cemeteries, nationwide,” Barnes noted. Vincent Marroquin, a volunteer with the United Way, said that the project was a little extra special for him. “Both my mom and dad are veterans, both serving in the Army. I heard about it through the VA, that they were doing a national campaign,” he shared. “I emailed the Carry The Load Foundation and they told me they were trying to get this done here today.” He said he believed it was a perfect way to help honor the day. Marroquin, who comes from an extensive military background, revealed that both his grandparents and parents met in the military. “I feel like the military has given me everything in my life, and it is really important to honor people, especially today,” he said. Raven Thomas, with Pierpont, reported that the college regularly receives updates from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and they were notified about the opportunity to take part in the special service project. “We thought it was a great opportunity for our students to come out and help acquire volunteer hours for the WV Invest Grant,” said Thomas. “We thought we would team up to join our fellow community members and invite our students to participate.” Jonetta Collins shared that she believes it is important to give back to community. “I think we should never forget those who have sacrificed everything for us to have what we have today. I am honored to be a part of this,” Collins expressed. “You think that we are just cleaning headstones, but when you really think about it, what we are doing is actually awesome.” She added that she believes that this particular community service project gives participants an opportunity to think about each individual placed beneath the stones. “With every headstone I clean, I get chills because it makes me remember that they truly gave everything for us,” she commented. “It is actually really important to get involved like this.” If you would like to learn more about Carry The Load, please log on to www.carrytheload.org.