WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — You probably haven’t heard of the Memorial Militia.
It’s likely the group’s only member hadn’t even heard of it before nine days ago.
Now, armed with a chainsaw and lawnmower, Chris Cox is on a one-man mission to clean up the National Mall as the Park Service employees normally tasked with keeping the area tidy sit idle during the shutdown of the federal government.
Cox, who resides in South Carolina, says he isn’t motivated by political reasons, but feels obligated to help as veterans prepare to descend on the nation’s capital for this weekend’s Million Vet March.
Regardless of how many former service members actually attend the rally, Cox says making the Mall presentable is just the right thing to do.
“These are our memorials. Do they think that we’re just going to let them go to hell? No,” Cox exclusively told All-News 99.1 reporter John Domen. “If they shut down our memorials, we’re still going to take the trash out, we’re going to clean the windows, we’re going to cut the grass, we’re going to pull the weeds, and we’re going to do the tree work.”
His tasks for Wednesday include clearing a 12-inch thick branch that had fallen onto a tree-lined path near the reflecting pool and mowing the lawn around the Lincoln Memorial.
Cox does not have a ride-on mower. Instead, he is using the same simple gasoline-powered push mower that can be found in millions of homes across America. And he does so with a smile.
Cox, who carries with him a flag of his native state, hopes his Memorial Militia will expand to include other volunteers before Sunday’s event. If not, he plans to keep working the area between the Lincoln and World War II memorials as best he can.
“There’s a lot of preparation to get ready for them and there’s nobody here representing the government,” he said.
Park Police do not condone Cox’s mission for liability reasons, but have been letting him work undisturbed. He believes he was given an unofficial green light because his heart was in the right place.
He says he will comply if authorities ask him to leave before the work is complete.