Monday, May 31, 2010

'Day on the Job' at Arlington

"For those who do Arlington's solemn work, 'Everyone's a VIP' "
CNN (May 29, 2010)

"The eyes of the nation turn to Arlington National Cemetery each Memorial Day weekend. Here, among the familiar iconic white granite markers, privates lie side-by-side with generals. For a nation at war, these lines grow longer every day.

"The cemetery's intention, of course, is to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. But the business here is to bury the nation's war dead.

"Darrell Stafford's title is interment foreman. In the execution of their duties, his teams perform a choreographed ballet of precision and organization. Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest times of the year at Arlington...."

"...A day before each burial, a team of workers digs each grave and installs a concrete grave liner. On the day of each service, the team lays planks around the grave and puts in artificial grass and a lowering device. Chairs are arranged in a row for family members who will attend the burial service.

"When they get an all-clear and the family has said goodbye and paid their final respects, his team moves in again. Team members remove the setup items, lower the casket and cover the grave. These duties are done almost invisibly -- the team blends into the scenery, but its work is woven from grave site to grave site for family after family.

"Most of the time, they perform a thankless task. But sometimes, their work is recognized by people attending the services. 'We have folks coming, from time to time, showing their appreciation and thanking us and just walking up to you and shaking your hand. It's a good feeling.'..."

It's a pretty good look at another set of folks who make things work.

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