Monument Man

Columbia, SC (WLTX) All stories have a beginning, and here, here in this little metal building, is where endings are written.

Once a week, Jonathan Rhodes, makes a trip from Georgia to write the words others have written to say goodbye.

"It's a hard job, it's not for everybody. It's very labor intensive, hot in the summer, cold in the winter, " says Jonathan.

It's not what comes to mind when you think of stone cutting. Johnathan sandblasts marble headstones for veteran's graves at the Fort Jackson National Cemetery.

And there's no shortage of work, dozens and dozens of these marble monuments are piled high, just waiting to be written.

"We're usually 650 headstones a year," says Jonathan.

It's a meticulous process, Jonathan carefully peels out the stenciling, letter by letter, word by word, creating openings for the sand to blast away the soft marble to create an inscription.

"This is my way of doing something for the veteran that did something for me. He or she didn't know me and I don't know them. You have to take pride in what you do for the families that want to come pay their respects to their loved ones, " he said.

And this is where their loved ones come to pay their respects, Fort Jackson National Cemetery, the final resting place for veterans and their spouses in the Midlands.

The cemetery averages around 55 burials a week and spans nearly 600 acres.

"The hardest part of the job, seriously, is knowing that was somebody's love one, this was someone who served our country and even sitting out here with all of them now is actually very difficult to do if you think about what these people gave to us, then it really gets to you."

"I've always been a prideful American. I come from a line of veterans from WWI, WWII and they're always had an impact on me. Memorial day is a day to remember, remember the sacrifices people made, I don't think its a day to mourn, " he said.

Jonathan says some of the inscriptions stick with him.

"Especially a Purple Heart, you know that they were wounded in action, or if they were a Bronze Star they went above and beyond for their servicemen."

"You get an emotional feeling. It's not a sad feeling--definitely not a happy feeling--but you have a sense of.....thankfulness, they did something for our betterment, " says Jonathan.

Even in this somber setting, Jonathan can still find a little humor, joking about what his own headstone might say one day.

"Here' lies the greatest sandblast man that ever lived, " he says laughing.

He'll continue to making the trek here, sandblasting stones and writing the endings to the stories of those who have served.


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