MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Jeff Milstead uses his free time to restore tombstones throughout Tennessee that belong to World War II veterans.
Milstead's journey began three years ago, after cleaning the stone of Hobart Massey — his uncle — in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Massey was also a veteran. Since then, Milstead set out to find more tombstones of veterans, including the few he's already cleaned in Evergreen Cemetery in Murfreesboro.
"When I saw the men, I wanted to learn something about them," Milstead said.
A fire inside him ignited after realizing many of these service members buried no longer have living relatives.
"I realized they're alone. They had no one to visit them on their birthday or give them wreaths at Christmas," Milstead said. "All these men died horrifically young."
Milstead spends hours after work finding World War II veterans buried in Tennessee and tries to clean as many tombstones as he can. It's a process he says can take up to six weeks for just one tombstone.
"So now they're my boys, and I will take care of them as long as I am physically able," Milstead said.
It's a volunteer job Milstead doesn't mind doing to say thank you to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Milstead says he still has half a dozen tombstones he plans to clean at Evergreen Cemetery in the Spring.
Milstead and his wife also put together wreaths to lay at veterans' tombstones every year.
This story was originally published by Seena Sleem on WTVF in Tennessee.