HARRISBURG (WSIL) — A Saline County teen is showing his appreciation for veterans.
Twice a year, he and his grandfather clean the crosses of unknown soldiers at a Harrisburg cemetery. The project started out as a homework assignment and has since become a labor of love between the pair.
Just before every Memorial and Veterans Day, 16-year-old Blake Eversmann cleans the crosses of the Unknown Soldiers at the Veteran’s Park inside Sunset Lawn Cemetery.
"A lot of the crosses here at the cemetery were either green and unclean and dirty," said Blake.
But he doesn’t do it alone.
"Talking to my grandfather was what really got me into thanking the veterans."
He and his grandfather, Army veteran Larry Angelly, do it together.
"It’s time consuming, and it’s a labor of love, but it needs to be done," said Larry.
The pair has been cleaning the crosses since Blake’s freshman year. It all started with an assignment from English teacher Krystal Wilson, who had her students read the short story The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry.
"The central theme is selfless giving," added Krystal. "So it’s a new concept of not just giving because you can or giving because you feel obligated, but really giving a gift that took some sort of sacrifice".
In searching for ideas, Blake turned to his grandfather.
"He’s my best friend. He’s a man I look up to in my life," said Blake.
Larry has been to the Veteran’s Park for memorial services since he was a child.
"It’s just been important to me all my life, and it’s just something we can do to show our appreciation," added Larry.
Larry was drafted in 1970 and says his father was a disabled veteran.
"The sacrifice he made and his friends taught me a lot in life."
Now, he teaches those same lessons to Blake.
"No matter if they are dead or alive, a veteran should still be respected," said Blake.
"I taught him to invest his time, his talent in something that he could do, and I’m quite proud of him," added Larry.
The high school junior continues to learn while being an example to his peers.
"When I saw that he was still doing the project even after freshman English, I was just so excited for him, and what more could you hope for as a teacher," said Krystal.
It’s also forever sealed a bond between a boy and his grandfather.
"This whole experience of getting to clean the crosses with him is something that I enjoy above all because I get to spend time with him, and I get to spend time doing good things for veterans," said Blake.
Blake said he will continue to clean the crosses with Larry for as long as he can. The pair hope maybe one day more people will join in.