With more than 624 acres of rolling green hills, 8,000 trees, and hundreds of gardens, the Arlington National Cemetery’s serene surroundings pay tribute to the 14,000-plus veterans and their family members who rest there. The Virginia site also provides a sense of peace and comfort to those who come to mourn their lost loved ones. As a result, the maintenance of these grounds is an important undertaking, which is why the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) hosts the annual Renewal and Remembrance service event and why we have graciously participated for the past seven years.
Celebrating its 20th year, the July 11 event gathered approximately 400 volunteers to partake in the landscape industry’s largest day of service in the United States. Practicing professionals in the lawn care industry came from near and far to volunteer and donate resources, taking time off during their busiest season of the year to pay respect to our nation’s heroes by sharing their expertise and rolling up their sleeves to give back.
Most volunteers are practitioners from the lawn care, landscape design, landscape installation, site maintenance, irrigation, or arboriculture industry. They are joined by affiliated professionals and family members, who, in turn, receive a unique, hands-on education about the positive impact of landscape management. For example, through this year’s children’s program, kids were able to get up close and personal with the Spanish-American War Monument to learn about its significance and to plant native perennials around it, as well as participate in the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The event kicked off bright and early with an opening ceremony featuring six speakers: Chairman of Renewal and Remembrance John Eggleston, Acting Superintendent of the Arlington National Cemetery Katharine Kelley, Arlington National Cemetery Chaplain Joe Mason, NALP President Brett Lemcke, Got Your 6 Executive Director Bill Rausch, and Weed Man USA’s Phil Fogarty.
While each speaker focused on different topics, they all centered around one common thread: gratitude. And, one thing NALP has made apparent over these last two decades of Renewal and Remembrance events is that they are grateful for all who serve our nation. We are also so grateful for NALP to offer us this opportunity to partner with them to give back.
After the ceremony, volunteers split into teams to cover several sections of the cemetery. Their scope of work included phosphorous application, aeration, irrigation installation and repairs, tree cabling and lightning protection, and landscape and hardscape projects. Teams used push spreaders and walk-behind aerators to allow application and aeration in tight areas and between tombstones. Our team was responsible for phosphorous application for the duration of the event.
While there are many heroes who work behind the scenes of the event to help make it happen each year, we wanted to name one individual in particular, our own Eric Gilbey, PLA, Vectorworks’ product marketing manager – landscape.
Gilbey has been closely involved with event logistics and has served for the past three years on the Renewal and Remembrance NALP Committee as the transportation and greeting champion. With the support of his fellow committee members, he was responsible for the organization and day-of configuration for getting volunteers where they needed to be and back again. As of this last event, Gilbey now serves as the vice chair and in 2019 will become the chair of the Renewal and Remembrance Committee responsible for coordinating this event with the help of NALP’s staff.
“As a landscape architect, I design spaces for people which evoke a sense of the place and create meaningful experiences. I can’t think of a better way to directly give back and pay respect to our nation’s fallen warriors and patriots,” said Gilbey. “I’m glad our contributions to the Arlington National Cemetery’s landscape can help family and friends of lost loved ones feel welcome and uplifted as they visit and remember.”