Every year, the North American Fence Contractors Association (NAFCA) sponsors people from across the country to restore the fences at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia that have rusted or fallen into disrepair. This year marked the eighth year the group volunteered. I have participated for the last six.
As many already know, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for our U.S. military heroes. The property once belonged to Robert E. Lee, who vacated it during the Civil War. The space then became a burial location when Civil War casualties outpaced other area cemeteries. The first burial took place at Arlington in 1864 when Private William Christian was laid to rest.
The grounds now contain more than 400,000 headstones, which are 250 pounds each and ordered in neat, straight lines. An abundance of headstones are viewable in every direction.
Every year, the group tears down and replaces dilapidated iron fencing around the grounds and replaces it with new, donated aluminum and iron fences to maintain the same style. Volunteers mix and pour concrete, remove the old fence, dig holes, measure, connect the fence panels and clean up. Not all the holes can be dug with machinery because there are many old trees throughout the cemetery that need to be protected. Because of that, and when trees are in close proximity, volunteers must dig holes by hand. After the hard work is finished, the whole group is treated to a private, guided tour of the cemetery.
Working with NAFCA to help restore the fences has been a great opportunity to give back to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Between 27 and 30 funeral services are held at the cemetery each weekday, and six to eight are held each Saturday. As the group works, we often hear the sound of “Taps” and a 21-gun salute in the distance, a somber reminder of where we are.
Pat Sadler, is Manager, Product Application Specialists for CertainTeed.
Interested in getting involved? The next project takes place on Oct. 19, 2018. More information can be found here. Monetary donations are also accepted to cover the cost of meals for the volunteers and other necessary worksite expenses.