Service is in Deklan Wilder’s blood.
His father, grandfather and several uncles are all veterans representing several U.S. military branches. So when it came time to decide on his Eagle Scout project, the idea came to the Bowling Green High School sophomore easily.
“I realize the sacrifice that some of our veterans have to make to keep our country free,” Deklan said, adding that some of his family members have been injured by shrapnel or have lost some of their hearing.
He’d always wanted to do something to help veterans, and there’s an element of challenge to every Eagle Scout project. The idea came to him after noticing veterans’ gravestones at Fairview Cemetery along Cemetery Road.
“They get a lot more dirt and grime and stuff from the road,” Deklan said. “I thought that they needed help cleaning that.”
On Saturday, Deklan gathered a large group of his family, friends and volunteers from his church to clean the graves, spraying them with a solution that cleared away built-up algae in rivulets of green. Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower also joined the group and the city of Bowling Green shared a thank-you note on its Facebook page Saturday.
Since this spring, he’s spent more than 10 hours restoring the markers.
Cathy Maroney, the cemetery’s director, said there are nearly 600 stones in the section in which Deklan is working.
“Those extra hands are going to be a big help,” Maroney said.
There are more than 2,000 veterans buried in Fairview Cemetery. Soldiers who fought in conflicts as far back as the Revolutionary War are buried there, Maroney said.
Employees often spend their time combing through rows and sections on behalf of visitors tracking down relatives lost to time. It’s often a surprise when visitors discover their ancestors were buried in the section for veterans.
“We have a lot of history here,” Maroney said.
Cemetery employees take pride in maintaining it, she said, but time and resources are limited. Maroney sees Deklan’s support as a blessing, she said, adding the cemetery is planning to build off the project. For Veterans Day, it will host a group to place American flags at the grave markers, and in December, it’s planning to place holiday wreaths.
Through another part of his project, Deklan is working to photograph and document the stones so they can be uploaded via an app into a searchable database, allowing contemporary relatives to reconnect with their ancestors.
“My main goal is to bring awareness to my generation” about forgotten veterans, Deklan said. He hopes to “reach out to as many people as possible and just kind of give them a sense of what these veterans have done for us,” he said.