ACROSS AMERICA — When visitors stream into local cemeteries this Memorial Day weekend to decorate the graves of soldiers, they’ll find countless headstones in better shape than they were in years past.

It all started four years ago when Trae Zipperer, his wife and daughter set out on a quest to discover American history at historical sites, battlefields, museums and national parks.
Zipperer never imagined it would give birth to a national initiative, “By Memorial Day,” to clean and repair veterans’ headstones in small community and church cemeteries across America. He estimates between 6 million and 7 million headstones on veterans’ graves have been ignored for decades.

“When you go to visit someone who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg and surrendered at the Appomattox Courthouse and you see their gravestone crushed under a giant oak tree, and you don’t even know how many years ago that happened, you can’t just walk away,” said Zipperer, a U.S. Navy veteran who lives in Fort Myers, Florida. By Tiffany Razzano for Bradenton, Florida, Patch
An Underwater Memorial For Vets

It’s been 41 years since 18-year-old U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Apprentice William R. Flores died, along with 22 shipmates, in the worst peacetime disaster in Coast Guard history. Now the young seaman is being memorialized in the waters in which he perished. On Tuesday, a 6-foot statue of Flores was lowered 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater. It’s the 13th statue in the Circle of Heroes memorial, the nation’s first underwater dive memorial honoring veterans. By D’Ann Lawrence White for Clearwater, Florida, Patch
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
His Last Act Of Service

World War II veteran Cecil Lockhart’s last act of service to his country was to give his liver to a woman in her 60s. At 95 the oldest organ donor in U.S. history, the longtime West Virginia coal miner was inspired to become a donor in his 80s after the death of his son, a tissue donor who helped heal 75 people after his natural life ended. “He was a generous person when he was alive, and we are filled with pride and hope knowing that, even after a long, happy life, he is able to continue that legacy of generosity,” Lockhart’s daughter, Sharon White, said in a news release from the Center for Organ Recovery & Education. “Knowing his life is continuing through others really is helping us through our grief, too.” By Tim Moran for Charleston, West Virginia, Patch
(Photo courtesy of the Center for Organ Recovery & Education)
It’s Quite Late, And He’s Quite Sorry

Howard Simon was an eighth grader in 1973 when he checked out Bob Dylan’s gleefully eccentric “Self Portrait” album from a library in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Now retired, Simon said he found the album while “taking the opportunity to turn [his] attention to some of the many vignettes of life that by dint of career and family have been neglected for years.” He returned the album, which by then was 17,480 days overdue, offering his apologies to the library for not returning it sooner. “It’s quite late,” he wrote in a note, “and I’m quite sorry.” Oh, and this: Simon included his own recording, which he said was influenced by Dylan, and a check for $175 to cover any fines for the late return. By Chris Mosby for Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Patch
(Photo courtesy of Heights Libraries)
The Nature Of Love

Now 26, Christian Liden was a middle schooler when he decided that whoever he might marry would wear an engagement ring made of precious metals and gems he mined or unearthed with his own hands. Until earlier this month, the Poulsbo, Washington, man figured he’d have to buy the centerpiece stone, but he found a 2.2-carat diamond at the famed Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. “As beautiful as this diamond is,” one park official said, “I think the best part is the story behind it.” By Beth Dalbey for Across America Patch
(Photo courtesy of Arkansas State Parks)
Diapers Full Of Dollars

Krystal Duhaney knows what it’s like to be a first-time parent. She also knows the struggle of trying to make ends meet. That’s why the founder of Milky Mama, a company that provides breastfeeding support to parents, wanted to do something special and unexpected for other parents who might be going through the same thing. Duhaney and her husband, Patrick, recently hid $1,000 worth of cash inside baby products at various Target stores in Southern California. “We really wanted to make things a little easier,” she said. “As parents raising two young children, it’s really important for us to let our children know … kindness matters and that you never know what somebody’s going through.” By Megan VerHelst for Los Angeles Patch
Remember To Fly A Kite

With their feet on the ground, students at Southwest Chicago Christian School spread their wings and flew kites for their friends at Grace Point Place Memory Care in the suburb of Oak Lawn. Nate Pettinga, the school principal, saw the fun event as a way to teach students about service and empathy by developing friendships with people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. “Part of who we are in being believers in Jesus Christ is that we show love to others,” he said. “We do that through our actions, and one of the ways we can do it is through opportunities to build relationships with our friends next door. Even though they have Alzheimer’s and dementia does not mean that they don’t have gifts and talents.” By Lorraine Swanson for Oak Lawn, Illinois, Patch
(Shannon Dahlman/Grace Point Place Memory Care)
Long Walk To Commencement Stage

When it comes down to it, Ja’Van Drakeford did it for his son. The Belleville, New Jersey, man and his twin brother, who lives in Haskell, earned criminal justice degrees from Berkeley College. Their path to the commencement stage was long, but rewarding, for the two men. “To be the parent my son needs and deserves, I realized I had to get back in school,” said Drakeford, who interrupted his college career a couple of times. By Eric Kiefer for Belleville-Nutley, New Jersey, Patch
(Photo courtesy of Berkeley College)
GPA Improvements + $500

It pays to have good grades. Literally. Eighty-eight students in Pinellas County, Florida, were recently paid $500 apiece for increasing their GPAs by the end of the school year, thanks to “Paid for Grades,” a program of a nonprofit organization that helps students bring up their grades with tutoring and other educational resources. One student who started the year with a 0.8 GPA finished with a GPA of 3.5. By Skyla Luckey for St. Pete, Florida, Patch
Explanation Didn’t Fly, But Pride Flag Does

Fullerton, California, interim City Manager Steve Danley announced last week the city would be unable to fly its rainbow LGBTQ pride flag because someone at City Hall had lost it. That didn’t “fly” with Briana Walker, who dishes on local politics on Twitter. She ordered a flag — and a few others did, too. “If they merely need the flag, then I don’t mind helping with the expense.