By Capt. Branden BuffaloAugust 29, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla., Aug. 29, 2019 -- Over 7,000 service members and their immediate family members have been laid to rest at the Fort Sill National Cemetery. Their periods of service span from as early as the World War I all the way through today's Global War on Terrorism. Up to 30 are added to the roster of honor every week. No matter the individual nor the time during which they served on behalf of this great nation, one thing is for certain: they will never be forgotten.
1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery has made it a tradition over the last year to ensure that we hold true to that promise. Every class cycle, D Battery commits to taking time to conduct a thorough cleanup of the cemetery grounds.
Trainees and cadre perform basic lawn care by laying new mulch, emptying trash bins, and picking up litter. In addition, they tend to the grave markers, cleaning off weathering and ensuring that the tombstones are legible.
On Aug. 14, the combined efforts of the trainees and cadre accounted for nearly 700 man-hours in a single day. This translates into roughly a month's effort by the regular staff of the facility.
Beyond the impact of the grounds maintenance, this small token of appreciation for the fallen has proven to be just as rewarding for the participants.
"Serving others who have served in the past, it is important to pay respects to those who came before us," said Pvt. Gabriel Murray, D Battery Class 44-19.
Over the course of basic combat training, trainees are instilled with appreciation for the seven Army values. By bringing trainees to the cemetery to be part of this essential task, they are given one final opportunity before graduation to put them into practice. Even further, trainees are left with a sense of accomplishment for having given a little back to those who have laid the groundwork for the freedoms they enjoy today.
"It is great to be able to give back to those who served," said Pft. Hanna Abel. "It means a lot to me knowing that someday someone else will do this for me."
Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Chelsea Wheelehan was among those experiencing the event for the first time. Her impressions were shared among many in attendance: "Cleaning the National Cemetery is the ultimate demonstration of the value of selfless service."
This cycle of commitment and dedication to one another is the very foundation that the Army is built upon: our Army Heritage and shared identity as professionals. Through something as simple as setting aside a few hours once a quarter, we collectively honor the memories of our fallen comrades and plant the seed to continue the tradition in the next generation of warriors.
Although every visit to the cemetery is special, this year the event was especially significant and personal for the battery as 2nd Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Cale Brewer's grandmother was recently entombed on the grounds.
The team looks forward to continuing this partnership with the Fort Sill National Cemetery to honor her memory and the memories of thousands more.
"I am so very proud of this team. They are teaching our new Soldiers in BCT the stewardship of the profession while helping Fort Sill National Cemetery ensure that the families of the fallen have a nice venue to visit their loved ones," said Lt. Col. Eric Kunak, 1-79th FA commander.