Veterans Respecting the Veterans of the Past (video)

Orting, Washington – The Washington Soldier’s Home cemetery is the oldest- and first – Veteran’s Cemetery in Washington State. It is the final resting place for veterans from the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and up through Vietnam. There are 4 Medal of Honor Recipients, 4 purple heart Recipients, Bronze Star and Silver Star Recipients, and many others buried there… 2,483 graves of Americans who fought for our freedoms and 200 of their spouses.

veterans of the past

Headstones are in need of resetting – photo by Michael Campbell

Forgotten and Disrespected

Michael Campbell, a USN Desert Storm veteran, Lead admin and creator of the 6th Congressional District Republicans WA State FB group, contacted Uncle Sams about the cemetery. He told us – showed us – through his pictures, that veterans, public officials, and community members from their area are coming together  to restore the graves of those who chose to fight for freedom. The cemetery is in dismal repair; the veterans graves left forgotten. And there is much work to be done.

michael campbell

US Navy Veteran Michael Campbell takes photos during the events – photo provided by Michael Campbell

Michael’s website is at this link.

2 USMC veterans, a Navy Veteran, and an Army veteran… have come together with the surrounding community to restore respect and honor to the graves of those interred at the cemetery.

“When I first saw the cemetery, I didn’t know how bad the state of disrepair was. It really moved me. Trees had overgrown some of the headstones……..I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s our duty to remember our veterans, to keep their memory alive. This cemetery is part of our national heritage…our veterans thought of us;  it is our responsibility to think of them.” Marc Perez, Farmer’s Insurance Agent and US Army Veteran


This tree has grown completely around the headstone- photo by Michael Campbell

Led by Washington State Rep Graham Hunt, a US Marine veteran, clean up days were started to try to change the face of the cemetery. He, Michael,  as well as numerous community members were joined by Mr. Perez, and Joshua Penner from the Orting City council (also a US Marine Veteran).

The cemetery is owned by the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs (WADVA). The State VA  funds headstones for interment, but not funds for upkeep. Over the years, trees have overgrown the grounds, shoving headstones aside, wrapping roots around them. The trees have also contributed to acidic damage on the headstones, so that many of them cannot be read.


This headstone has no engraving left on it – Photo by Michael Campbell


These headstones are being shoved over and out of the way by trees- photo by Michael Campbell

Some of the old pine caskets used in times past are no longer far enough below ground to avoid being snagged by the lawnmower, which creates the need for some graves to be reset. Many headstones can’t be read, but one headstone can’t be read at all-why? Because it is backwards, and a pump house (that doesn’t work) was built on top of the grave.

“It’s an egregious disrespect.” Marc Perez


This pump house (which doesn’t work, by the way) was built squarely on top of a veteran’s grave. Photo by Michael Campbell



Rep Hunt with the superintendent of the cemetery- photo by Michael Campbell

Community members have attended two cleanup events, one in April, and one on May 16. The first event had around 70 in attendance, the 2nd only about half that.  But that doesn’t mean they weren’t working hard.  The last event on May 16 saw headstones scrubbed with the same whitening solution used at Arlington National Cemetery – the solution was  obtained by Rep Hunt. Mr. Perez was able to obtain donated buckets from  3 Safeway stores for the cleaning crews to use.



Marc Perez stands in front of the donated buckets – Photo by Michael Campbell


Joshua Penner

Joshua Penner sprays the headstones with cleaning solution- Photo by Michael Campbell

“Everyone of us have put our own money into this project.”

Young and old they came. Children scrubbed and worked as hard as the adults.  On young man was asked why he was cleaning headstones, and he said simply,  “Because I want to be nice to them.”


Why are you washing headstones? “Because I want to be nice to them.” – Photo from Humans of Orting (


Rep Hunt and this little girl hard at work cleaning the grave markers – Photo provided by Michael Campbell


Photo by Michael Campbell

orting cleaner1

Photo by Michael Campbell


They planted flowers – photo by Michael Campbell

The people cleaned the headstones, they took turns spraying them with the chemical solution from Arlington to lighten their color, they prepared the cemetery as best they could for Memorial Day. But the work has  along way to go to be complete. The trees need to be removed, as the acid from the pine needles has worn away the engraving on the headstones, and damaged others. Many of the headstones will have to be re-engraved or replaced entirely. And all of that will cost money- lots of it.


Photo provided by Michael Campbell


Photo provided by Michael Campbell

Many of the headstones in the grounds are irreparably stained, but the chemical from Arlington National Cemetery made a huge difference.  They spiffed up the cemetery for Memorial Day, but more work needs to be done.

“Your silent tents of green, we deck with fragrant flowers; yours has the suffering been, the memory shall be ours.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Indeed, the memory should be ours.


William H. Sickless, Civil War Medal of Honor Recipient – photo by Michael Campbell

Another event is planned for September, and we will keep you posted. In the meantime, if you would like to assist their efforts, you can go to their donation webpage, or the facebook page.

They are working on social media to spread the word: Google Plus page, Twitter account-@OrtingCemetery
The following video by Marc Perez shows some of the final results of their cleaning day at the cemetery.



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Faye Higbee

Faye Higbee

I'm a published author of 4 books, numerous short stories, blogs and editorials. I've been working at Uncle Sam's since 2013. I have two degrees in Criminal Justice and worked for over 31 years at a local police department. I have been a patriotic American since I was a child.

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