Jacksonville veteran cleans up fellow veterans' headstones

Clarence Hollowell's goal is to 'show respect' to fallen service members

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Every Memorial Day, people find their own ways to honor those who gave their lives for our country. For a Jacksonville man, that means spending his day bringing veterans back to life.

Clarence Hollowell, a mail carrier and Army veteran, does his part to make sure the service members who made the ultimate sacrifice are not forgotten by tidying up their headstones at local cemeteries.

On Monday, Hollowell was focused on sprucing up the headstone of Cpl. Redick Evans, who was part of the 33rd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment. "He just came to life again," the 60-year-old said.

But it’s not something he does just once a year.

In fact, throughout the year, he spends his free time visiting burial sites, like the Old City Cemetery in Springfield, armed with a scraper, brush and cleaning fluid.

“It’s just a name to most people, but once you pick one name and you find out about them, you find out that they had a life, they had dreams and aspirations,” Hollowell told News4Jax on Monday.

“Some of them died in war,” he said. “Some came home and built a life.”

He said he first began his project two years ago. Since then, he estimates he’s cleaned up about 600 headstones. Sometimes, it takes only two or three hours. Other times, it can take up to six months.

When it’s all said and done, a headstone that has seen its luster fade over time and because of natural elements is restored to its former glory. Once-illegible inscriptions can now be clearly read by visitors.

“Everybody has a story and they’re not just a headstone anymore. They come alive,” Hollowell said, adding that his goal is simple: “to show respect for the men and women who serve our country.”

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