“It’s hard to pay attention during the work I’m supposed to be doing,” Newman,45,of New Milford,Conn.,said. “I find myself glancing at the names on the headstones. I can’t help but wonder who these people were,but just knowing that they served our country is definitely a true honor.”
Newman,president of the landscape company,Yard Apes,was one of 400 lawn care and landscape professionals from more than 30 states who volunteered at Arlington Monday for the annual Renewal and Remembrance event.
This is the 18th year of the event when members of the Professional Landcare Network – also known as PLANET – mulch,prune and plant to help care for more than 180 of the cemetery’s 624 acres.
“It’s just like taking care of an old home,” PLANET President Jim McCutcheon said. “You got to make sure that every once in a while you take care of the details.”
By the end of the day,78 tons of lime and 22 tons of gypsum were applied to the grounds and 45 acres of turf were aerated in addition to work on 12 trees.
“A lot of landscapers will bring their kids,and it’s an opportunity for these kids – sometimes they’re anywhere from 3 to 13 – to learn what Arlington is,why it’s special,what the meaning of what these service men and women is,” Roger Phelps,promotional and communication manager for Stihl Inc.,said. “But also it’s a chance for them to understand that they have an opportunity to serve as well.”
Kids planted grass,tree saplings and milkweed. They placed carnations at the headstones of several of the original tombstones at the cemetery.
Phelps,52 of Virginia Beach,Va.,has volunteered at the event for 12 years as a way to honor the people he served with when he was in the Navy. He said it was a “no brainer” to get involved.
The same goes for Jeremy Baker,district sales manager for The Care of Trees in Dulles,Va.
He has been volunteering at the event for seven years. A big part of the reason he volunteers is family members who were in the military.
“My father served,my grandfather served,and I feel that it’s just a great opportunity to give back,” Baker,37,said. “And also we have so many service men and women who are dedicating their time. They’re away from their families and their loved ones to help protect our country and fight for our causes. It’s so easy for me to come out here and spend a little bit of time to beautify the grounds where so many of our service men and women are buried.”
Reach reporter Erin Bell at [email protected] or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.