NORTH ANDOVER — Greg Kent was a track star from Lawrence who was encouraged to try out for the 1968 Olympics, but enlisted in the and went to Vietnam instead.
Killed in a mortar attack, his body was laid to rest in the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, where a group of people with the Veterans Services office cleaned his gravesite and those of other veterans Saturday.
“His high school sweetheart reached out to me,” said Veterans Services director Gerry Maguire. “She said she couldn’t maintain his grave anymore, and asked if I would.”
Armed with brushes, rakes and a biodegradable chemical cleaner, veterans teamed up with local kids in what Maguire dubbed the “Honor Platoon,” to clean headstones and swap stories.
“The word sacrifice means a lot to us (veterans),” said Maguire. “These kids are sacrificing their Saturday to be here, they could have been watching TV.”
As the group made its way through the cemetery, grave markers that were almost completely buried were made visible again.
“It’s amazing, it doesn’t take long” for the grass to grow over the graves, remarked newly elected selectman Chris Nobile, who brought his sons.
Maguire said he hopes the “Honor Platoon” will foster understanding between veterans and civilians, young and old.
“Massachusetts general law says veterans services officers are responsible to make sure those resting places are cared for, which is an almost impossible feat unless I get a lot of help,” said Maguire.
The chemical cleaner was purchased by the town of North Andover. The hand pumps to use it was donated by Home Depot in Methuen, and everyone that came brought some elbow grease, an extra pair of gloves or a rake.
The newly formed group plans to meet one Saturday every month at various cemeteries to maintain the headstones of veterans in town.
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