A few weeks ago, we brought you the story of Eli Jablonski and his Eagle Scout Project at Arlington Cemetery, Kearny. Now, he’s completed it. Jablonski planned, managed and executed the restoration of gravestones of veterans within the Soldiers’ Circle at the cemetery.

Since its construction in the 1880s, more than 500 American Civil War veterans and a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient were buried in Arlington Cemetery along Schuyler Avenue. Jablonski’s project focused on cleaning the 777 headstones of the veterans buried in the Soldiers’ Circle.

Over the years, environmental weathering eroded the once bright grave markers, requiring elbow grease and a special D/2 biological solution, used in monument restoration, to return them to their former glory.

Atlas Preservation in Southington, Connecticut, provided a generous discount for the procurement of the required 30 gallons of D/2. Funds to cover the total costs of D/2, cleaning supplies and safety equipment, including masks, gloves and goggles, were donated privately in lieu of an in-person fundraiser during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan was designed originally to serve as a collaborative endeavor between the HCGHS and Unit 305.

However, as word spread about the restoration of neglected veterans gravestones, there was a remarkable broadening spirit of volunteerism. Members of the Kearny Town Council, Woman’s Club of Arlington, American Legion and even passers-by at the cemetery expressed a desire to support the cause.

They registered and joined in, getting their hands dirty to show respect for veterans.

A total of  68 volunteers, ranging in age from 6 to 77, comprised of Jablonski’s fellow Scouts, Unit 305 leaders, members of HCGHS and the community, as well as family, including cousins from Troop 7 in Ridgewood, toiled diligently during three work sessions in July to clean the gravestones.

The volunteers contributed more than 512 total service hours.

The workers scraped lichen and moss with tongue depressors then scrubbed, rinsed and detailed with toothbrushes to remove years of environmental wear and tear. Their efforts provided near immediate gratification as the cleansing of the D/2 revealed the previously indecipherable name and rank of the buried veterans.

The 750 gallons of water needed were supplied in a 350-gallon water tote provided and refilled by the Kearny Fire Department. Jablonski consulted with now-retired KFD Chief Steven Dyl before his retirement; current Chief Joseph Mastandrea and Cap. Michael Janeczko to borrow the water source and to have it positioned on the perimeter of the Soldiers’ Circle.

New firefighter recruits assisted with the setup at the cemetery and refilled the tote as requested with Engine 3, a pumper truck.

The collective labor of all the volunteers, combined with the cooperative yet hot, sunny weather, made it possible for Jablonski to complete his Eagle Project two weeks ahead of schedule.

At the end of the third work session, Jablonski thanked his volunteers and donors, extending his gratitude for their diligence while social distancing.  He greatly appreciated their hard work to restore the gravestones to honor the veterans who served our country.

“The reason we remember people is because they’ve done something great for us,” Jablonski said. “These men and women have shown their patriotism by serving in the military, and it’s only right that we show our respect by cleaning these gravestones to give them honor. If we let them remain dirty, it’s like we’re throwing them away. The stones are telling a story and we need to help tell the story by cleaning them.”

Jablonski also acknowledged and thanked Doreen Bloomer, HCGHS president, with whom he consulted throughout the endeavor.  Jablonski coordinated his Eagle Project to benefit the HCGHS by enabling them to read the name and rank of the buried veterans within the Soldiers’ Circle.

This endeavor to identify each veteran will allow the HCGHS to continue their broader genealogical research and historical preservation of the burial markers within the Soldiers’ Circle. Any of the gravestones that have weathered beyond repair may be replaced by the United States government through a petition filed by the Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery, which owns the Soldiers’ Circle.

Jablonski led the final application of D/2 spray on July 12, 2020, which will continue working on the headstones to provide additional protection against further weathering and environmental decay.  His Eagle Project that celebrated a kickoff on the eve of Independence Day fittingly has shined brightly to honor the legacy and sacrifice of veterans.

The Eagle candidate is expected to plan, fundraise, secure materials and oversee the execution of a completed project, including managing Scout leaders and fellow Scouts in leadership activities throughout the endeavor.

Jablonski’s completed project will be submitted to his Eagle Board of Review as the next step in his Trail to Eagle.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.