FT. SNELLING, Minn. (KMSP) - When most people visit a cemetery, they bring flowers or a wreath to lay on a loved one's grave. But Matt Stone of Forest Lake, Minnesota is bringing something much more personal to total strangers.
Stone started collecting World War II memorabilia from collectors and thrift stores about eight years ago. After researching the history of each piece, he's brought items from a half dozen individuals to Fort Snelling National Cemetery to reunite them with their original owners.
"I thought it would be a cool idea to actually visit the grave of the people who owned this stuff,” said Stone. “I think they would be looking down and feeling pretty proud that a younger person has passion about it and likes learning about their history."
Among the pieces include the uniform from First Lt. Joseph Widseth, a Marine from McIntosh, Minn., who Stone says was awarded a Silver Star after he was killed by Japanese mortar fire in the South Pacific in 1944. Another find was the uniform from rescue pilot Goodwin Luck of Minneapolis, who Stone says saved a Navy officer who had been behind enemy lines for 40 days.
"You can see pictures of it and read about it, but when you are out here and you are looking at their headstone, you get a sense of how real it is and how they lost their life and even if they didn't lose their life during the war, what their sacrifice was," said Stone.
For Stone, these pieces from the past bring history alive and he hopes their legacy will never be laid to rest.
"I plan to do this as long as I can find items and bring them out here and find new history," he said.
While at the cemetery, Stone also takes a photo of himself and the artifacts at the grave sites for his Facebook page. So far, he's posted about a half dozen including one with his great grandfather's combat boots at his grave.