At 2019 Renewal & Remembrance industry gives back to those who served

July 17, 2019 -  By
Frank Mariani, owner of Mariani Landscape, addresses the volunteers at the 2019 Renewal & Remembrance. “This place simply takes your breath away,” he said of Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo: Seth Jones)

Frank Mariani, owner of Mariani Landscape, addresses the volunteers at the 2019 Renewal & Remembrance. “This place simply takes your breath away,” he said of Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo: Seth Jones)

It was a busy and productive day at the 23rd annual Renewal & Remembrance, held earlier this week in Arlington, Va. More than 400 landscape professionals visited Arlington National Cemetery and volunteered their time and talents to improve the 624-acre cemetery that serves as the resting place for 400,000. On Monday alone, 31 funerals took place at Arlington National, with the sound of three-volley salutes often being heard in the distance.

Organized by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), the event kicked off with speeches from Colonel Andrea M. Stahl, USA Ret.; Robert B. Quackenbush, deputy superintendent for support, Arlington National Cemetery; and a prayer by Chaplain Todd Wolf, wounded warrior chaplain, Military District of Washington.

The opening speeches alone were enough to make Frank Mariani, owner of Mariani Landscape and NALP Foundation President, reflect on the meaning of the day and what the group was about to do. “For a first generation American, the concept of speaking here is almost too much to grasp,” he told the assembly of volunteers. “If I had a wish, it would be that my mom, dad and grandparents could see me today, bestowed with this honor … they’d be blown away. I know I’m blown away — this place simply takes your breath away.”

John Deere’s Ken Taylor, who brought his grandson with him to the event to take in the experience, encouraged the volunteers to not only work hard for the veterans buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but to also take a moment to appreciate the meaning of what they were about to do. “As an industry we have the opportunity to use our skills to truly enrich the lives of the people who come here to be with their loved ones,” he said. “Go to your assigned tasks with a feeling of giving back.”

Tasks performed included:

  • Applying more than 60 tons of limestone to turf;
  • Aerating more than 85 acres of turf;
  • Inspecting, repairing, adjusting and assessing irrigation systems;
  • Installing native plants;
  • Installing lightning protection in trees;
  • Maintaining pavers, as well as restoring flagstones.
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Weed Man’s Bruce Sheppard and Brandon Sheppard, father and son, have made attending Renewal & Remembrance a family tradition for almost 20 years. (Photo by: Seth Jones)

For volunteer Brandon Sheppard, a Weed Man franchise owner in Winchester, Va., Renewal & Remembrance has become a family tradition. His father Bruce was in attendance with him, and he says his father and family have been attending the event for about 20 years.

“There are so many people in this hallowed property that have given us so much to protect our freedom, our liberties and the ability to live the way we choose … it’s important to do something for them,” he said. “To come out here and work on the grounds is a small sacrifice we can make for them.”

Ryan Miller, district sales manager for Turf Equipment and Supply Co., Fairfax, Va., brought eight 30-inch ride-on Toro aerators for the volunteers to use. He’s been attending Renewal & Remembrance for about ten years.

“This is a humbling experience, just looking at the place,” Miller said. “The least we can do is give them some of our time, considering what they’ve given for us.”

Federico Lamas, vice president of Virginia Tractor, says that his company, the closest John Deere dealer to Arlington National Cemetery, enjoys staying engaged in the local community. Being involved with Arlington National allows the company to have an even grander impact, he said.

“You look around and realize what all the headstones mean — it’s a very emotional place,” Lamas says. “Their were 31 separate funerals going on in that one day … 31 in one day! When you stand there and look at the military procession go by, and the coffin is draped with the flag, it gives you perspective. We all have our lives going on, our fun weekends with our families … we can do that because of the people in that cemetery. It opens your eyes and makes you appreciate what you have.”

Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist of 2014 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 18 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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