Veterans begin effort to preserve gravestones

By: Adam Rollins, Staff Writer
Posted 5/20/21

This past Saturday, amid drizzle and dreary clouds, a group of marines in good cheer set out to honor and preserve the graves of veterans who were long ago buried at the Warrenton City …

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Veterans begin effort to preserve gravestones


This past Saturday, amid drizzle and dreary clouds, a group of marines in good cheer set out to honor and preserve the graves of veterans who were long ago buried at the Warrenton City Cemetery. 

With a special chemical, bristle brushes and a fair amount of elbow grease, the members of the Warrenton Marine Corps League began an effort to remove years of dirt and moldy growth from the graves of every veteran in the cemetery, and eventually throughout all of Warren County.

“It’s very important. ... We’re gonna clean these veterans’ stones up, and let them not be forgotten,” said project coordinator Erick Rasche.

The Warrenton-area Marines say they want to know about any cemeteries in Warren County where veterans’ graves need care. They will also care for graves in Jonesburg, the burial place of their detachment’s namesake, Richard S. Haymes.

To clean the graves, the Marines purchased a special chemical called D/2 Biological Solution. Normal household cleaners can damage grave stones, but the D/2 leaves stone unaffected while acting to break down anything biological on the surface. It even continues working over time to remove anything that’s still stuck on after cleaning.

Unfortunately, the D/2 chemical isn’t cheap. Rasche said it cost about $50 per gallon to order. That cost was a little easier to bear after Rural King, Chic Lumber, Orschelns and private contributors all donated other supplies, Rasche said.

The group cleaned about 25 headstones on May 15, out of about 57 identified with the help of the Warrenton city groundskeepers. They plan to return until all the stones have been properly maintained, and are hoping to get more help from community volunteers along the way.

Marine Corps League Commandant Ryan Petras said he hopes to make the headstone preservation into larger community events that can become an enduring effort.

“You never know, you might have the families of these veterans pop up and say, ‘Hey, I’ll do my family’s headstone,’” Petras commented. “We’ll show you how to do it, and you can start doing the upkeep on your veteran’s headstone.”

The Marines were inspired to begin the cleaning effort as part of a larger initiative called Honor Your DNA, focused on preserving the graves of veterans across the country. Honor Your DNA releases YouTube videos explaining how to care for various grave markers.

Warrenton city Grounds and Maintenance Director Brad Busekrus said he and his crew were happy to help identify veterans’ graves. He said the crew becomes familiar with the stones while spending long hours maintaining the grounds.

“A lot of those older stones have the names and information on them. When you’re weed eating, you’ll come across them that say he served in the Civil War or others like that,” said Busekrus. He, too, hopes to see more community members get involved with the cleaning.

“It’s a great thing, if more organizations can get involved in taking care. A lot of these people (buried at the cemetery) have no more relatives around, and it’s up to us to take care of them. It’s a great asset to the community to have these folks helping out,” Busekrus commented.

Anyone interested in helping with the grave stone cleaning can contact Rasche by emailing

Warrenton Marine Corps League, Warrenton City Cemetery


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