Mideast edition, Tuesday, July 17, 2007

WASHINGTON — Tim Price said hauling fertilizer up the hills of Arlington National Cemetery on a humid 90-degree morning isn’t such a bad way to spend a day off from work.

“When we were in Iraq (in 2005), one day off we took a photo of the thermometer that said 154 degrees,” said Price, a 19-year National Guardsman from Tennessee. “And we ended up having to go out anyway that day for a security detail. So, this is OK.”

Price, who traveled more than 800 miles for the privilege of spreading lime and grass seed in the cemetery, was one of more than 250 volunteers taking part Monday in the Professional Landcare Network’s annual landscaping of the memorial park.

Lawn care workers, including a handful of veterans like Price, and their families spent a half-day trimming fields, pruning trees and tending to the gravesites in an effort to thank the military and troops who have sacrificed their lives.

“I look at it as a great way to honor them,” said Matt Cannon, a recently separated Marine reservist who deployed to Iraq with the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion in 2003.

“I saw a lot of my brothers fall while I was overseas. Now, I want to make sure their families know that they are resting in a great and appropriate place.”

The volunteers brought in more than 170 cubic yards of mulch and fertilizers, and more than 100 pieces of equipment to tend to the 600-plus acre cemetery. Organizers said the supplies and work totaled more than $250,000 in donations.

Family members of the lawn care workers chipped in, too: A small army of children helped replant a flower garden near the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Bob Kanpracavich, a landscaper from Pennsylvania, traveled south for his second stint of volunteer work this year and said the hot weather wouldn’t slow him down at all.

“We like to do stuff like this when we can, to help out with our skills,” he said. “It’s like they say: It’s part of the privilege of being able to live in a free country.”

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