MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — As the final resting place for thousands of heroes, the Middletown Veterans Cemetery is supposed to evoke strong feelings. But the feelings were not always so good.
It took years of work, first cleaning out the trees and shrubs that had overgrown the cemetery, then putting grave stones right. A yearly effort of volunteer arborists called “Saluting Branches” helped with that.
“You know, just as I was pulling in here this morning, I got a chill up my spine in a good way,” Commissioner Thomas Saadi, Department of Veterans Affairs told News 8.
Daniel Neagle of Lawrence Brunoli Inc. spoke about the difficulties in the construction: “Well, the contours of the ground were very uneven, and, over time, the headstones, a lot of them had settled and caused to be out of alignment.”
That’s where Dan’s employer, contractor Lawrence Brunoli stepped in. It’s tough work, navigating the long, narrow rows of headstones to make sure they stand in perfect, military precision.
“We would remove the stones and re-establish the stone base and realign them and put them in rows and column,” Neagle explained.
So far they’ve done that more than seven thousand times. It’s all part of a $10 million project by the state department of Veterans Affairs.
“We do that to improve those that are interred here,” said Saadi, “so that the loved ones and friends who come here have that sense of comfort when they come to this cemetery.”
It includes around 4,000 cubic yards of new topsoil, and 8 acres of new sod on top of it.
There are really 2 parts to the project: improving the existing cemetery is just one part. They are also expanding.
Think about it: WWII and Korea vets are in their 80s and 90s. Vietnam vets in their 60s and 70s, and since 9/11, we’ve created 3 million new veterans due to the war on terror. Demand keeps growing, so veterans cemeteries have to plan decades in advance.
Anyone who has actively served in the military can apply for interment in Middletown, and around 10,000 have so far. Current and future residents deserve a remarkeable resting place, with rows and columns that look like battalions marching in formation.
“It’s the message it communicates to people who tell me, ‘Commissioner, one day I’m going to be interred there. It looks wonderful and thank you.'”– Commissioner Thomas Saadi\Dept. of Veterans Affairs
And Dan with the contractor has extra respect for those who served. His son is a newly commissioned Army Lieutenant.
“When people come up to me and thank me for what I’m doing, and what my guys are doing out here, I usually thank them because it’s their family, it’s their friends, it’s their loved ones that sacrificed so much for all of us.”– Daniel Neagle of Lawrence Brunoli Inc.
If all goes according to schedule, the whole project should be done this spring.