The weather cooperated beautifully Monday morning as volunteers from across the country converged on Arlington National Cemetery for the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ 19th annual Renewal & Remembrance event.
Some 400 professional landscapers, many of whom brought their families to join in the volunteer work, gathered initially at a staging area in the 624-acre cemetery. There they found waiting for them dozens of spreaders, utility task vehicles, tractors and other equipment that many of the 100-plus companies represented at the event had delivered on Sunday.
In addition to the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), this year’s annual day of service at Arlington National Cemetery was held in partnership with the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance and the Professional Grounds Management Society.
At the opening ceremony for the event, NALP President Scott Jamieson told his members that “we’re here to make a difference,” noting that it’s difficult to imagine Arlington National Cemetery without its beautiful trees and grounds.
Also speaking at the ceremony was U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, whose husband owns a landscaping business and is a member of NALP. The senator, who was dressed to join in the work with a group of volunteers from her home state after her speech, said the day’s gathering would not have been possible without the sacrifices of those buried at the cemetery. She called on the crowd to keep in mind “those who are serving today in some very difficult places,” such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Maintaining this beautiful cemetery’s 600-plus acres is no small task and your work here today will make a difference,” Ayotte told the volunteers.
Doug Black, CEO of John Deere Landscapes, made several remarks that clearly echoed what many in the audience were thinking: “It’s impossible to walk these hallowed grounds and not be humbled by the sacrifice” of those buried at Arlington, Black said, as well as their families. “Thank you for representing the green industry very, very well.”
Although it was hot and humid in the Washington area Monday morning, a breeze helped the army of workers, who fanned out over the cemetery, keep going strong for several hours straight.
In addition to the turf-related work, a number of tree specialists were on hand to reinforce some of the cemetery’s hundreds of beautiful old trees. Lightning protection also was added for some trees. Last year, on its 150th anniversary, the Arlington National Cemetery Arboretum was awarded accreditation by two of the most prestigious national accrediting agencies.
While the landscaping company trucks in the staging area came from states in every region of the country, it was clear from good-natured teasing among some participants that they, or their companies, were competitors on a routine day. On Monday, however, they were happily working side by side on a common – and humbling – goal.