While in Washington, D.C., to educate legislators about issues impacting their businesses, floral industry members will have a chance to explore America’s rich history during a special networking experience.
Congressional Action Days, the Society of American Florists’ 39th Annual lobbying event, March 11-12, includes a tour of Arlington National Cemetery. (March 1 is the early-bird deadline to save $55 on registration for CAD.)
Arlington National Cemetery sprawls on 624-acres, just south of the National Mall across the Potomac River, and is the final resting spot for more than 400,000 men and women who were willing to put their lives on the line in service to their country.
Longtime CAD participant Brian Wheat, AAF, PFCI, of Lafayette Florist, Gift Shop & Garden Center in Lafayette, Colorado, looks forward to touring the cemetery with his son, Tanner. “A visit to this solemn, but yet beautiful place is an opportunity to pay your respects and remembrance,” said Wheat, who served in the United States Air Force. “As a veteran myself, I’m proud of our nation; I’m proud of my brothers and sisters who have answered the call to service, though many paid the ultimate price.”
Wheat said a highlight will be visiting the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to witness the Changing of the Guard, “a precision military ritual that brings chills, honor and pride” and “an important, time-honored tradition,” he said.
This will be the third “field trip” with SAF to Arlington National for David Boulton, AAF, PFCI, of Flowers by George in Arlington, Washington, who has attended every CAD since 1996. He’ll never forget his first visit — in 2002, just six months after the September 11th terrorist attacks.
“Looking out over the Pentagon from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, there was still the large flag draped over the building along with plenty of construction and blackened fronts of the structure,” he said. “I just stood there wondering what it would have been like the moment that plane went over the heads of the soldiers and then crashed into the Pentagon.”
“It still brings chills up and down my spine just thinking about that day,” Boulton continued, adding that it is memorable to him that SAF members, as a group, visited the cemetery together. “I personally value the field trips that [Meetings and Conventions Director] Laura [Weaver] plans for the CAD attendees to get out and see the sights of Washington, D.C.”
Floral industry members will no doubt notice the significant role their products assume at Arlington National Cemetery. “The gift of flowers at a memorial site is a ritual that occurs around the world, understood in every culture,” the cemetery’s website says. “The floral tributes at funerals bespeak both the beauty and the brevity of life and evoke memories of other days. These types of memorials are made each day at Arlington National Cemetery, at the dozens of funeral services occurring there and in solitary communion with a departed loved one.”
Additionally, just last year, the Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Arboretum achieved level III status with the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and The Morton Arboretum. The second highest level, this distinction requires at least 500 species of woody plants and a collections curator, among other criteria.
The grave of President John F. Kennedy is the cemetery’s most visited site. He is one of only two U.S. presidents entombed at Arlington; the other is President William Howard Taft. Kennedy’s brothers, Robert and Edward, gravesites also are buried there.
Other sites of interest include the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial, the Iran Rescue Mission Monument, the USS Maine Mast Memorial, the Coast Guard Memorial and the Nurses Memorial.
Many prominent historical figures are buried at the cemetery, including Abner Doubleday, often credited with inventing baseball; Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in World War II; Lt. Ollie Josephine B. Bennett, an Army doctor during World War I; George Westinghouse, inventor and electric company founder; and Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall, Earl Warren and William Rehnquist.
CAD participants in search of a specific grave can locate it using ANC Explorer, the cemetery’s mobile app.
For CAD details and to register, visit safnow.org/cad.
Christy O’Farrell is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.