CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Around 11:30 Saturday morning, with temperatures well below freezing and the sky sprinkling snowflakes on their heads, about a dozen volunteers showed up at the West Virginia Veterans Memorial and set to work.
They cleared snow and ice from the monument's walkways, cleaned leaves out of grates and wiped smudges from the memorial's granite-faced walls.
The group came together through a local email list, which was used last Friday to circulate a Daily Mail article about problems at the memorial.
Kasey Warner, a 60-year-old Army veteran from Charleston, suggested members of the mailing list take matters into their own hands and clean the place up.
"Let's take the Nike approach and 'just do it,' " he wrote in one message. "If already cleaned up, we can stand around, drink coffee, scratch, and tell war stories that always improve with time."
Warner spent 31 years in active duty with the Army. He has a daughter who graduated from West Point and a son who served in Iraq. Two other daughters married servicemen. Four of his brothers were in the military.
"In our mind it's a crime for that memorial to suffer," he said. "The memorial and the people it honors . . . we ought to do better."
Saturday's workgroup included several veterans, Warner and his wife, as well as four young men from George Washington High School's JROTC program and two members of Capital High's JROTC.
"It's the least I could do to help out the community. That's what JROTC is all about," said Jaelan Warren, a GW senior and JROTC sergeant major.
As Warner used a backpack-style leaf blower to clear the memorial's walkways of loose powder, the high-schoolers began clearing heavier snow and ice with snow shovels, rakes and push brooms provided by Warner's younger brother, Monty.
Monty, 56, retired from the Army in 2003 after 29 of service. He now works with George Washington High's JROTC students.
"Anything that involves veterans, they stop what they're doing and get involved," he said.
Monty, who came dressed in a black "ARMY" hoodie identical to the one worn by his brother, expressed disappointment about the monument's upkeep.
He pointed out that, while the sidewalks all around memorial had been cleared of snow, the walkways leading through the monument were still covered. He imagined an elderly mother, her son killed in the Vietnam War more than 40 years ago, making a trip to Charleston just to see her boy's name etched in the black granite walls.
"If it's all iced up, they're not going to go see it," he said. "This is the most beautiful thing we have in the state for our fallen."
Realizing the shovels weren't doing much good on the icy walkways, newly retired Army Ranger Larry Stein drove to Green's Feed and Seed to buy road salt. When Stein mentioned why he needed the salt, owner Earl Green told him it was on the house.