Thousands of people will make their way to national cemeteries on Veterans Day to honor loved ones that served our country, including the relatives and friends of the nearly 70,000 military veterans buried at Houston National Cemetery.
There, you’ll notice a great deal of care is put into keeping the sacred ground pristine year round. There are around 280 developed acres of land, and soon, Houston National Cemetery will begin its phase five expansion.
"The sun comes up and you’ll see from some of the fountains and everything, the light dew that comes across the graves and everything. It really is calming,” caretaker Jack Barfield said.
Presicely placed headstones and hardly a blade of grass out of place; it's the standard at Houston National Cemetery.
Thank you to all of the brave men & women who have served & sacrificed so much for our great nation! Freedom isn’t free. I’m so grateful for our veterans. 🇺🇸💙#VeteransDay @CW39Houston pic.twitter.com/BvnEw5yzTz
— Courtney Carpenter (@CourtneyCW39) November 11, 2019
"What I hope is that any family member that comes through here having suffered the loss of somebody they cared so deeply about, if nothing else, they can see how significant they were to us and maybe that will remind them how significant they were to them,” Assistant Director Raymond Dann said.
There are 32 full-time members of the grounds crew, and nearly all of them are veterans, so they realize the importance of what they do.
"It’s more of a privilege than anything to work here and giving back for veterans because one day, you know, they’ll be doing the same thing to me,” Barfield said.
Dann has worked in national cemeteries for the last decade. After three deployments, he knew this line of work was for him.
“You see things and you deal with loss," Dann said. "The first time I ever encountered a national cemetery to experience that just brief moment of kind of clarity and comfort.”
While honorable, the job of a groundskeeper is far from glamorous. It's hours of hard work, and no question, it's done with heart.
"To be able to give that kind of respect and to be able to pay a veteran back that way, it's unparalleled," Dann said.