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Nonprofit group ‘Let My Light Shine’ honors veterans at Marion National Cemetery

MARION, Ind. (WISH) — Tucked away in Marion, Ind., are the somber reminders of the sacrifices made for our freedom today.

“It’s a little bit breathtaking,” Dave Drake, assistant director of Marion National Cemetery, said.

Row after row, in perfect alignment, the gravestones at Marion National Cemetery pay tribute to those who served our country.

“The level that is out here as far as different war eras, we have three Medal of Honor Recipients, dating back from the Civil War to the present day,” Drake said.

It’s eerily quiet at the cemetery, even in the middle of the day.

The sun shines on the names etched into the stones as people come from all over to see the grave markers of those who earned the right to be buried there.

And, for three weeks out of the year, as the sun sets, the light continues to shine.

“These are for the guys who can stand now but could not stand at one time,” Tom Luzadder, co-founder of the Let My Light Shine organization.

Luzadder and his wife, Kathy Luzadder, started Let My Light Shine, a nonprofit group that purchases solar lights to post next to the grave markers ahead of Veterans Day so they can be seen 24 hours a day.

“We had some friends that went to Arlington [National Cemetery] and brought back pictures of the Kennedy flame, the Eternal Flame. We’ve got tombstones…just similar to Arlington, and she said that would be neat if we could take a light and put it on the stones out there,” Luzadder said.

Kathy Luzadder worked at the Veterans Affairs office right next to the cemetery and she wanted to pay tribute in some way, so they went to the hardware store, and for $10, they bought a solar light just to see how it would look. They got permission from the cemetery director and began placing lights.

“The first year, we got two or three couples together and invested a little money and put 400 lights out there,” Luzadder said.

That was 11 years ago. Now, with the help of the community, they’ve put out more than 12,000 lights.

“We had over 200 people out there to put out the lights. It’s a community project to be able to honor the veterans,” Luzadder said.

Roger Anderson is a Vietnam veteran and the president of Let My Light Shine. He says as a veteran himself, it’s the least he can do.

“It gives you a warm welcome in your heart, to be able to go out and do it for these veterans. What can you say? I’m a veteran myself, maybe I’ll be out there some day and be looking for my light,” Anderson said.

Luzadder says he hopes keeping a light on the stones will keep the sacrifices of those buried there at the front of people’s minds.

“Patriotism seems to be webbing away, and it’s important we keep the flames going so younger people can realize that without [the veterans], we wouldn’t be able to have what we’ve got,” Luzadder said.

Luzadder says his wife, Kathy, passed away just two years ago, but he carries on her mission because he knows it meant so much to her.

“I know that she’d be just tickled to death to see a light on every veteran’s grave,” Luzzader said.

Let My Light Shine is in need of volunteers to help remove the lights on Nov. 12, starting at 9 a.m. Volunteers should arrive at the Marion National Cemetery just before 9 a.m.