BLOOMFIELD — Between 100 and 150 headstones in Bloomfield Cemetery stand over the graves of U.S. military veterans.
And now, all of these headstones are clean.
About 20 volunteers recently spent a day cleaning headstones of veterans buried at Bloomfield Cemetery, under the leadership of Bradley Kinsch, a Boy Scout with Troop 239 in Lake Geneva.
Kinsch, 17, of Bloomfield, led the effort Oct. 6 for his Eagle Scout project, a public service project required to reach the top rank in the Boy Scouts of America.
“I was thinking about what I could do for the veterans,” Kinsch said. “I wanted to do my project for soldiers who were killed in foreign wars.”
Bradley’s mother, Candace Kinsch, said the results of the cemetery cleanup left her both amazed and proud of her son for taking on work with such profound context.
“We were all moved the day of his project,” she said. “It was a history lesson for us all.”
A senior at Badger High School, Kinsch plans to study fire science and wild land fire management after graduation.
But it was not always that way.
Inspired by godfather
For most of his life, Kinsch hoped to join the military out of respect for his godfather, Michael McNulty, a master sergeant in the U.S. Army.
“I looked up to him,” Kinsch said. “He’s had a pretty big impact on my life.”
In 2005, McNulty was killed in action while serving in Iraq. He was 36.
McNulty was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. He had earned at least 20 medals in his military career, including the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal.
When deciding on his Eagle Scout project, Kinsch said his godfather’s service inspired him to undertake the headstone cleaning at Bloomfield Cemetery.
He and his fellow volunteers not only hand-scrubbed each headstone, they also spruced up the landscaping and replaced aging or broken flags to commemorate the fallen.
Thanks to calm weather and Kinsch’s leadership, the group managed to clean other headstones as well, exceeding their own expectations.
The process took about six hours.
Brian Kase, Scoutmaster of Troop 239, said the veterans’ headstones at the cemetery “turned out beautifully.”
“Other people that stroll through the cemetery would be able to tell that the veterans’ graves were honored,” Kase said. “Even though a lot of those graves will never be visited again, it still is an honor to them and their legacy.”
On Oct. 27, Kinsch and his fellow Scouts returned to the cemetery — and invited local veterans to join them — to see the newly cleaned headstones.
Also present were Eagle Project representative Ken Monroe, state Sen. Steve Nass, and members of both Bloomfield Genoa City Fire and Rescue and the Bloomfield Police Department.
“The project was to scrub, clean and tidy up the headstones of the soldiers who have fought for our right to stand here today,” Kinsch said in a speech to the crowd. “I would like to honor the veterans that are here today as well, and thank you for your service.”
Nass delivered a speech of his own, discussing his own time in the military and highlighting the importance of remembering fallen soldiers.
Scout Kevin Blasiman played taps, followed by a ceremonial cannon blast fired by Nass and Monroe.
Hard work worth it
With his Eagle Scount project complete, Kinsch only needs to earn three badges to become an Eagle Scout — Communications, Citizenship in the Nation and Citizenship in the World.
“Eagle Scout isn’t something that you just get,” he said. “It’s something that you have to earn. It’s something that you have to work hard for.”
Kinsch said his journey through the Boy Scout ranks has been both challenging and rewarding; he considered quitting when he was younger, but he quickly learned the value of gaining new skills and reaching higher ranks.
He said he looks forward to achieving the Eagle Scout title.
“If I got it, I’d get self-satisfaction,” he said. “I worked really hard for it, and that really paid off.”
Kase agreed, saying that Kinsch’s hard work has led to considerable growth in his character.
“Bradley has grown considerably since I first met him,” Kase said. “Scouting has played a very important role in his life, and I believe he has truly accepted the principles of scouting, and lives his life by them.”