'By remembering one veteran, we're remembering all the veterans'

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A cold November morning probably never stood in the way of soldier Jay Pattison. So why, then, should it stand in the way of a small army of senior citizens?

"These people have served our country," said Ann Shipley, bucket in hand, not far from Pattison's grave site, "and now they're forgotten."

Where some used bayonets, Shipley and her legion fire off their brushes and soap. They battle the enemies of dirt and age, and disinterest.

"There aren't that many ways we can honor them except maybe by doing this," Shipley said, washing a sudsy mix over mossy grave marker. "They've earned the right to have a clean tombstone."

Shipley, along with seven other women, tend to more than a dozen grave sites of soldiers -- some who stretch back to the 1800s -- at Olympia's Masonic Memorial Park. The women -- all who can trace their roots to the American Revolution -- clean off the moss and the grime, plant flowers and flags, all to salute those who've served.

Della Stenstrom of Olympia says she picked the soldier's site she adopted because his service in World War I paralleled that of her father's.

"I remember my dad. He never talked about the war," she said, after leaving a potted plant and a flag by the soldier's grave site. "By remembering one veteran, we're remembering all the veterans."

The group cleaned up a handful of grave sites Friday morning in anticipation of Veteran's Day. They do the same on Memorial Day and often on the soldiers' birthdays and other special occasions.

"I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction knowing that I'm doing something really meaningful," said Suzanne Hornbuckle. "I feel good. I'm really happy that I'm able to do that."

"The grass would grow over them and eventually they'd disappear (if we didn't clean them)," added Shipley. "Kinda sad."