For caretaker at Tahoma National Cemetery, his life’s work is honoring the fallen

KENT, Wash. -- Ahead of the Memorial Day holiday, James Hunter was a busy man.

One after another, he set new markers in place – each bearing the name of a service member who had recently passed on.

“It’s a wide array of life,” Hunter said as he read some of the markers out loud.

“A lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy.”

“World War 2.”

“A beloved husband.”

Hunter is a caretaker at Tahoma National Cemetery. A 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army, he understands the sacrifice of the men and women he helps to honor.

“Who better to take care of a veteran than a veteran?” he asked.

What's especially important to Hunter are the families of those who rest at Tahoma – particularly around Memorial Day when loved ones come to pay their respects.

“We take that personal,” Hunter said. “We want it right; we want to do it right for them so when they come out here, they know somebody else is taking care of their loved one.”

In his roughly seven years work in national cemeteries – at Tahoma and in Texas – Hunter has been witness to a lot of things - some of them sad, many of them touching. He recounted the story of a man who would visit his wife every day.

“For two years,” he said. “Never missed a day, rain or shine, to sit at his wife's graveside.”

Hunter and the man became close, and still text each other a few times a week.

The day Q13 visited Hunter at Tahoma, he installed a new plaque to honor not only those who paid the ultimate price for freedom but for the families who paid that price as well.

It reads:

“In honor of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States of America and the families they left behind. The sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

It’s those families and soldiers he thinks about as he works each day. Knowing that with each burial, and with each marker, he’s helping to honor a hero.

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