- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2006

The sounds of tractors and power equipment filled Arlington National Cemetery yesterday as hundreds of landscapers from across the country donated their skills and equipment for the day.

Tree and lawn care crews worked from 8:30 a.m. to about 1 p.m. spreading lime over 278 acres of the more than 600-acre cemetery, installing an irrigation system and planting trees and shrubs — services valued at more than $250,000.

The work is part of the Renewal and Remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery, a program now in its 10th year.

“We have people here who have literally closed up their businesses to be here,” said John Gibson, president of Professional Landcare Network, or Planet, an international association of landscaping professionals that organized the event.

The group estimates that the Renewal and Remembrance program has over the years contributed more than $1 million in services to Arlington National Cemetery and Historic Congressional Cemetery in Southeast.

Yesterday’s turnout was the largest ever, with more than 250 people from 27 states. In addition, all of the supplies were donated, Mr. Gibson said.

The day began with a ceremony, featuring a joint color guard, to dedicate the day of work to veterans who gave their lives to defend America.

Then teams — named after patriotic themes such as “Independence” and “Democracy” — scattered across the cemetery to begin the landscaping projects.

Some of the crews cabled large trees to prevent them from splitting. Others went to the Congressional Cemetery, at 1801 E St., to eradicate weeds and prune trees.

Jeff Bisker, of Columbus, Ohio, served as captain of team “Liberty” and was in charge of spreading lime on 13 acres near the Tomb of the Unknowns to prepare the lawn for fertilizer in the fall.

“I am here to pay respects to all the soldiers who are buried here,” he said, cutting open another bag of lime and emptying it into a spreader.

Many of the landscapers expressed a connection to the cemetery, either through relatives or friends buried there or through their own military service.

When Bob Dodson heard about the event, he immediately signed on to help install a high-tech irrigation system near the visitor lot. The Vietnam War veteran said he does not have any relatives buried at the cemetery, but it still “has a special meaning.”

“This is a great opportunity for me to lend my skills and to volunteer,” he said.

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