ARLINGTON, Va. (CBSDC) — Hundreds of thousands of U.S. servicemen and women — veterans of the Civil War and Iraq alike — are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Past presidents rest there. An Apollo 11 astronaut rests there. Victims of 9/11 and the Virginia Tech Massacre rest there. An average of 35 funerals are performed there every week day.

The national landmark has its own staff, which is responsible for mowing 562 acres of turf and trimming around the headstones weekly. They also maintain about 8,400 trees. But once a year, to pay respects to the hallowed ground, volunteers from Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) and some of their families exercise their green thumbs by mulching, pruning, aerating and planting at the cemetery as part of their Renewal & Remembrance beautification project.

PHOTOS: Arlington National Cemetery

Since its inception, Renewal & Remembrance has contributed more than $2.2 million to Arlington. Last year, about 375 volunteers participated, applying 120 tons of lime to 271 acres of land and aerated 30 acres of turf.

Today, for their 17th annual event, they are completing their normal tasks in addition to installing lightning protection and cabling for seven of the cemetery’s historic trees.

Roger Phelps, a PLANET member, told WNEW’s Kevin Patrick that it’s an amazing day for those involved, especially veterans like himself.

“I’ve got buddies that are resting here, so while I’m here I’ll stop by and pay my respects and let them know I’m trying to do my best to take care of them,” he said.

He also likes the fact that it’s a family event. It serves “to let especially the young people know, service takes many forms,” he said. “Yes, obviously we’re here for the military, the people who gave their service and their lives to our country. But there’s also different types of service that anyone in America can do… they can give back to their community.”

WNEW’s Kevin Patrick contributed to this report. Follow him and WNEW on Twitter.


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