- - Wednesday, November 13, 2013

He’s perhaps the only American who came out of the government shutdown with his reputation enhanced: the one-man “Memorial Militia” Chris Cox who captivated the nation last month by mowing and cleaning the Mall.

Mr. Cox traveled from his home Mount Pleasant, S.C., to empty trash cans, pick up cigarette butts, clear fallen tree limbs and mow the area around memorials on the Mall during the government shutdown in advance of what became known as the Million Vet March. And on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday, he was honored for his selfless actions.

“I’ve always had an affinity for the respecting of veterans, but it seemed like they need our help more during the shutdown. So some people like myself took things into our own hands,” Mr. Cox said. “When I saw trash pouring out of cans, I wasn’t happy.”

He used his own equipment, paid for his own travel and refused to take any donations or to politicize his acts during several national media appearances.

“I was never in this to receive gifts. I wasn’t in this for anything but to boost America’s self-esteem,” Mr. Cox said. “These buildings are our buildings and it’s our duty to keep them looking nice.”

Inspired by hundreds of emails, thousands of social media posts and financial support of 72 nationwide donors, Crowd It Forward, a nonprofit crowdfunding organization, decided to reach out to the “lawn mower man.”

“At the end of this I had to twist his arm because Chris did not do this for money and he didn’t want to take anything,” said Kendall Almerico, founder of Crowd It Forward.

Mr. Cox, a woodcutting artist, finally agreed to accept a new chain saw, donated by Stihl Inc., and a financial donation to cover some of the costs of parking tickets he received.

“It’s very flattering. I’ve never really had anybody give me anything before. I’m going to use this chain saw to do a lot of work for good, to continue to work on behalf of veterans,” Mr. Cox said.

Crowd It Forward is now preparing to launch a fundraiser for homeless veterans living in the District. The money will go toward hiring food trucks to visit homeless shelters and providing higher quality food to veterans.

“The new fund, because of what Chris is doing, is to keep this going for homeless veterans and veterans that were injured and wounded and need help.” Mr. Almerico said. “We hope this goes across the country eventually, but we are going to try to raise money to pay food trucks to deliver food to veterans living in D.C.”

Crowd It Forward is raising the funds now and hopes to send out the first trucks on Dec. 7 to honor the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“I picked Pearl Harbor Day because it’s less than a month away. I wanted to show we could raise the money and do this in a short period of time and we can deliver something to veterans on a day that most people don’t recognize as a veterans holiday, but it is a very important day especially to veterans,” Mr. Almerico said.

Mr. Cox is using his story to inspire other Americans to join him in helping support veterans throughout the country. He has created his own “South Carolina Militia” to help aging veterans with household chores that the veterans are unable to do on their own.

“We need to come together as Americans and show our patriotism,” Mr. Cox said. “It’s easy to sit at a computer and hit a ‘like’ button on a photo showing people make it happen. Go out yourself and make it happen. At the end of the day, anybody can be the lawn mower man, not just Chris Cox. If you see something that needs to be done, go and do it, make it happen. That’s the American way.”

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