Mistake leads to staining of veterans' headstones

by: Lorena Incl\u00E1n Updated:

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —

A big landscaping mistake has caused widespread stains on at least 4,000 headstones at the Jacksonville National Cemetery.

Shirley Morgan's grandfather's grave site has one of the stained headstones. "It looks more of like a rusty color, like if you could just get it right off but it doesn't come off," said Morgan.

The orange-colored stains were caused by a liquid fertilizer sprayed on the lawn last week by DM Koehn Pest Control company. It's a process cemetery director Cliff Shields said the company has done for years but this time it appears something went terribly wrong.

"It's totally unacceptable. This is a national shrine. We work really hard and take great pride in keeping the cemetery beautiful," said Shields.

Action News took the concerns straight to DM Koehn Pest Control offices on Philips Highway. Horticulture manager Kyle Davis said as a veteran himself, the ordeal has been gut-wrenching.

"It was supposed to be a non-staining iron. If you look at the concrete and other areas there are no stains, but for some reason we had a reaction with the marble on the stones and the iron turned them orange," said Davis.

The pest control company put up a sign in front of the stained headstones Monday afternoon that reads "headstone cleaning in progress."

By tomorrow, crews will be here scrubbing every stained headstone.

"We are truly sorry. This is an honest mistake unfortunately, it will not happen again," said Davis.

Morgan said she just wants her grandfather's final resting place to look its best at all times.

"Just make it look nice again," said Morgan.

Davis said the goal is to have the headstones cleaned by the Fourth of July holiday.

The cleaning project is costing the company $15,000 to $20,000.

The Jacksonville National Cemetery has given the landscaping company until next Friday to clean the stains.

Meanwhile, Shields said cemetery workers have discontinued the use of fertilizer until they can find an alternative that won't damage the headstones.