Cleaning Headstones By Memorial Day
Navy veteran Trae Zipperer started cleaning family headstones many years ago. He went on a mission to find out more about his family history and clean his family’s veteran gravestones. This trip took him to 16 different cemeteries across 5 different states where his ancestors are buried. When visiting these cemeteries, Trae noticed that majority of the stones have been neglected and green and black stains had built up on them over time. He wanted to clean others’ gravestones in the cemetery but knew that there is a policy against cleaning non-family stones. Trae did some research and found that veteran gravestones issued by the government are considered federal property, so he could clean those stones.
Starting the By Memorial Day Organization
Trae began actively cleaning other veteran headstones in cemeteries near his home when he noticed there weren’t any African American veteran stones in these cemeteries. Come to find out due to segregation laws of the past, African Americans were buried in separated cemeteries. Trae searched for the African American cemetery in Lee County, Florida and made sure the stones for those veterans also got the cleaning they deserved.
It was so sad to see so many of the gravestones covered in algae. Trae spent the day cleaning the veteran headstones which gave him such satisfaction. He thought to himself why just stop here when there are veteran gravestones across the USA that are this dirty. He thought about how everything could change if everyone got involved with cleaning veteran headstones nationwide.
This became his inspiration to start the organization “By Memorial Day”. The goal of the organization is to clean every veteran gravestone by Memorial Day. It is an organization that anyone can be involved with and doesn’t really stop at Memorial Day each year.
Trae explained that every year going forward, everyone should go out to the cemeteries and clean veteran gravestones and put up a new American flag next to each stone, so they are in good shape for Memorial Day. But the cleaning doesn’t have to stop there.
Trae contacted a local congressman, the Veteran Affairs office and the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) to see what could be done to help accomplish this. He received a document from the NCPTT with the proper methods on cleaning gravestones. After receiving the document, he spoke to some of his Harvard graduate friends, but they said a lot of the products in this document weren’t tangible to most people.
He then came across Wet & Forget, which was not listed by name in the document provided by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. He did a bit more research about the active ingredients in the product, and realized that this product is considered a quaternary ammonium compound, which is listed as an approve substance to clean gravestones, so it can be used to clean gravestones across the U.S. He suggested to the Veteran Affairs office to produce protocol to clean gravestones outside of the Arlington National Cemetery.
Trae worked with Congressman Brian Mast (US House of Representatives Member for Florida) to communicate with the office of Veteran Affairs. Congressman Mast is also a veteran and was very interested in helping Trae. After working with Congressman Mast, there is now protocol for cleaning veteran gravestones with products such as Wet & Forget.
Cleaning Headstones with Wet & Forget
Trae was drawn to using Wet & Forget to clean gravestones due to the accessibility of the product and the ease of use. “Other products are more commercial. People don’t recognize the name and have to contact wholesale distributors to order the product, and they are $50. Wet & Forget is not only listed on the VA guidelines for cleaning headstones, but it is very affordable and cost-effective” – Trae Z. Ft. Myers, FL
By Memorial Day encourages volunteers to go out and clean gravestones. For most events 20-70 volunteers show up to help clean veteran headstones. For one event, they cleaned 479 veteran gravestones in one day.
“When you clean gravestones it’s amazing to see the transformation, and it’s such an honor to do that.” – Trae Z. Ft. Myers, FL
The organization has easily cleaned 1,000 gravestones in Lee County, FL alone. Most of the stones were covered in black algae. Cleaning with Wet & Forget makes cleaning headstones quick and easy.
“When using Wet & Forget you can treat a whole cemetery quickly. It takes 10 seconds to clean a stone, compared to 45 minutes of scrubbing. It does no harm and keeps the growth from returning for a period of time so you can treat the stones once a year.” – Trae Z. Ft. Myers, FL
Trae explained the accessibility of Wet & Forget also makes cleaning headstones with the By Memorial Day organization easier. He explained “It’s a well-recognized brand. 75-80% of people know about it or have it on hand. The name tells the story.”
“We need patriotism and something good right now. I can’t think of a better thing right now. There’s something everyone can do to be a part of By Memorial Day. Everyone knows someone who’s a vet or are proud to be an American” – Trae Z. Ft. Myers, FL
Watch how easy it is to clean gravestones with Wet & Forget in this video the By Memorial Day organization shared below.