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Arlington Work Day Reflections

Group Photo (PC: Philippe Nobile Photography)

Arlington Work Day Reflections

It’s been a few weeks since our annual workday at Arlington Cemetery.

Teaching children at WIMSA Memorial

Teaching children at WIMSA Memorial

This has become a hallowed and humbling annual event for our family and company (15 years and counting!), to be represented with hundreds of other landscaping industry professionals. Over the years through events such as this, we’ve been fortunate to meet other great professionals in our industry.  One of them is Bruce Allentuck from Allentuck Landscaping Co., in Clarksburg, Maryland. With his permission, I am sharing a bit of his reflections on this day, mingled with my own.

 

Arlington National Cemetery is extraordinary. As the final resting place for over 400,000 service members, it is truly our country’s collective hallowed ground. It also happens to be a beautiful 600-acre, Class 3 arboretum.

 

Racheal, instructing children on the Flower Memorials

Racheal, instructing children on the Flower Memorials

July 16th marked the 22nd annual National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Renewal & Remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery. This annual event brings together over 450 of our peers from across the country for a day of service on the grounds. Participants come to the event at their own expense, some even closing their businesses to make the trip. Materials and equipment were donated by our vendor partners, while our work included aerating and liming turf, upgrading irrigation systems, performing tree work, plantings, and hardscape construction. There was also a Children’s Project, giving our member’s children the opportunity to make a positive impact, as well.

 

Farmside Landscape was well represented, with 6 of us attending from our family/business. Our son, Miles, represented Wray Brothers Landscaping (Bethesda, MD,) supporting both the event leadership and work teams. Our Farmside team took part in two areas for the day: First, our son, Richard, led the Sustainability Team with Miles III, and Miles Jr., assisting, making sure the grounds were kept clean and all the debris was removed and recycled properly throughout the work day.  Second, our two daughters and I helped lead the Children’s Program, in the planting project that included the children placing flowers at the tombs of soldiers at the Mast of The Maine Memorial. It afforded us time to help guide and teach the next generation to reflect on those who sacrificed everything for our country and give back in their own way, through service.

Richard, with co-worker on Sustainability Team

Richard, with co-worker on Sustainability Team

The kids also had the opportunity to visit and learn about the Women in Military Service for America (WIMSA) Memorial, met two honor guards and their Caisson horses, participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watched the changing of the guard. Starting at sunrise, it was an activity-packed day for all involved. We are humbled by and proud of the awesome job performed by all of the landscaping professionals who chose to donate their time and efforts to give back to those who served our country.

 

The Day Begins (PC: Philippe Nobile Photography)

The Day Begins (PC: Philippe Nobile Photography)

The day began with an opening ceremony at the Women in Military Service Association Memorial. The fountain and stonework of this memorial provided an inspirational setting for us to reconnect with old friends and prepare for our day.

 

The highlight of the day for many of us was listening to Colonel Priscilla Quackenbush, (Ret.) share her story as an Army nurse who served both overseas and here at home at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Bruce, a personal friend of Priscilla and her husband Bob, asked Priscilla to speak to our group. While Bruce knew of Priscilla’s service, he learned so much more about the details of her career through her presentation, finding it enlightening and inspiring as we all did.

Priscilla Quackenbush Delivers The Keynote Address (PC: Philippe Nobile Photography)

Priscilla Quackenbush Delivers The Keynote Address (PC: Philippe Nobile Photography)

 

One of Priscilla’s responsibilities while at Walter Reed, was to personally meet wounded soldiers as they arrived back in the U.S. at Andrews Air Force Base, assuring them they were safe now, here at home. Focused on attending to the soldiers’ needs, Priscilla handled everything from facilitating phone calls to the returning troops’ mothers, to arranging transport buses ensuring they could view the green plants, colorful flowers and spacious lawns that were familiar sights of home—so unlike the dry, arid terrain of Iraq and Afghanistan. Honoring such simple requests was therapeutic to the service men and women, setting them on a path to healing from the traumas of war.

 

 

Wreath Laying Ceremony (PC: Philippe Nobile Photography)

Wreath Laying Ceremony (PC: Philippe Nobile Photography)

Arlington National Cemetery is a curative respite for many people. For families and friends visiting the final resting place of their loved ones, the beauty and tranquility of the landscape at Arlington provides calm and peace. Nature always serves as a healing balm. For those returning year after year, seeing how the trees grow and mature over time, and how the landscape flourishes, offers reassuring continuity with a sense of remembrance and honor that will continue through eternity. The gentle quiet of Arlington is soothing, as the song of a nearby bird helps lift the spirit in times of sorrow.

As landscape professionals, we know we only play a very small role in what makes Arlington the special place that it is. We also know that if the work we do there helps someone find peace and healing, it is truly a labor of honor and love for us.

 

Children’s Program before & after plantings

Childrens Program before and after plantings

AnnMarie Leading the Childrens Planting

AnnaMarie Leading the Children in Planting

Main image Group Photo – PC: Philippe Nobile Photography

 

For additional reading on the day, please visit view this article, as well from Total Landscape Care: Landscapers Give Their Time and Talent at Renewal Remembrance

 

As landscape professionals, we know we only play a very small role in what makes Arlington the special place that it is. We also know that if the work we do there helps someone find peace and healing, it is truly a labor of honor and love for us.