Soldiers help restore historical cemetery
Volunteers clean up Congressional Cemetery during National Days of Prayer and Remembrance
By Sgt. 1st Class Erica Lehmkuhl
Military District of Washington Sergeant Audie Murphy Club President
But when Olivia Hunter, Naval District of Washington Regional Community Service Program Manager, shouts, "Are you really ready to work?" with her usual high level of enthusiasm, even the groggiest of us in the crowd had to respond with an even louder "Yes!"
President Barack Obama proclaimed Sept. 7 to 9 as National Days of Prayer and Remembrance to honor and remember the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Volunteers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Public Health Services converged on the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 8 to complete renovations at the 35-acre historic burial ground.
Sgt. 1st Class Darcela Tucker, a Sergeant Audie Murphy Club member from Walter Reed Bethesda, felt compelled to volunteer for this renovation for the same reason she sought membership in the SAMC -- to reach out and help others by assisting in improving our communities.
"Doing this made me feel really good," Tucket said. "I love working in the community and helping out as much as possible."
More than 250 service members and civilian volunteers arrived at the Congressional Cemetery early in the morning to participate in one of 17 different renovation projects for the National Day of Remembrance.
Tucker, Sgt. 1st Class Mark Sibayan, and Staff Sgt. Zenia Boswell, were selected to work as members of the stone raining team. This team was tasked with resetting headstones that had settled into the earth at odd angles or fallen completely over and were lying on the ground.
It wasn't until then that many of the volunteers found out that standard service members' head stone is supposed to rise 21 inches above the ground.
Sibayan said he "didn't realize how heavy and fragile headstones are" until that day, and that it felt good to reset the headstones back in their proper places.
Staff at the Congressional Cemetery estimated that the volunteers saved the non-profit cemetery over $23,000 in just four hours of work.
More important than the amount of money saved were the lessons learned that day and the sense of pride felt by all the volunteers at the end of the day when enjoyed the result of their hard work while sitting down to a BBQ lunch together, with an over 200-year-old piece of American history.
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