Dedication to the final resting place

Crews work hours to care for grounds and families

Rock Island, Ill. - People across the country will pay their respects to veterans November 11.

There's more to Veterans Day than honoring those who served.

Service men and women have been laid to rest at the Rock Island National Cemetery since 1863.

Grounds crews there make sure veterans are never forgotten.

Many who work at the Rock Island National Cemetery are veterans and say they know the importance of caring for their fellow service members and families, even after they've died.

These are hallowed grounds.

Rock Island National Cemetery Foreman Matt Tomes said, "You don't know these guys stories that are being buried here, but everybody has a story."

When Matt Tomes goes to work, he spends his days walking through the stories of thousands of men and women who have served this country including his family.

Tomes said, "My day and my grandpa are here, so I have a personal connection to this place."

A veteran himself, he's among more than a dozen who are dedicated to serving the grounds and families of those who serve to make this final resting place fitting for heroes who sacrificed.

RI National Cemetery Representative Andrews Guadalupe said, "We've put the kind of effort we do; we go that extra mile because these are the families of service members whom they all share that bond with. So when they come to the cemetery, they are charged, we are honored to provide that care for them, and we take care of them as they would be our own.

It's work involving some long hours to comfort a family dealing with a loss, create the headstones on site and keep the more than 50 acres looking pristine down to delicate care for each marker. 

"You can look down the rows and see straight headstones, and you can look down diagonally and see that everything lines up," said Tomes.

All to leave at the end of the day, knowing respect is paid for generations of service. 
 
"I look at the headstones as I'm driving out and it just makes you feel good." Tomes said, "You know, you did a good day's work, and the cemetery looks good, and families can see that the place is beautiful and it's well taken care of."

About 33,000 are buried in the Rock Island National Cemetery including soldiers who died during the Civil War.

November 8, the Army will recognize the work of the crews who keep it in excellent condition. 


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