Renewal and Remembrance day of service held at Arlington National Cemetery
ARLINGTON, Va. (ABC7) —
From aerating and planting, to digging and shoveling, hundreds of hands worked as one to help beautify the sacred grounds at Arlington National Cemetery.
"We have almost a waiting list of people that want to come because this work is really so meaningful," said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals. “They’re coming here to create an extra sense of beauty to honor the soldiers and their families, and create a sense of peace.”
Landscape professionals from 36 states offered their expertise for the 21st Annual Renewal & Remembrance Day.
"It’s grown each year with the number of people and the number of projects and the amount of work we do each year,” said Phil Fogarty, who has volunteered from the beginning. “It also gives us a chance to show our appreciation to veterans and their families."
Many of the volunteers are veterans themselves. They repaired and installed irrigation systems, installed supportive cabling systems to protect trees from strong storms, aerated more than 80 acres of turf and planted flowers where many of our country's heroes rest.
For many, the day of service had turned into a family tradition.
"The dedication here, everyone that's fallen here and memorialized here, that’s what keeps us coming back as a family," said Lisa Kuperus, who has been volunteering for 14 years.
Kuperus is from Wantage, New Jersey, and can remember when her kids were strapped to her back. Now, her five kids mark the date on their calendars each year and help lead the children's program.
More than 50 young kids also decorated graves and mulched garden beds. It was a chance for them to learn about the sacrafices the brave men and women made for their country.
"You get to see people from other places that you would never meet if you didn't come and you get to honor the people who have fallen," said 10-year-old Mellie Klaas, who volunteered for the 10th time.
The day of service has swelled from 50 volunteers 21 years ago, to now more than 400 volunteers.
"We want to make sure they know that we're refusing to forget the sacrifices that were made," Fogarty said.
The volunteers also helped ensure the hallowed grounds stay in pristine condition.