Tuesday a group of Machinists traveled to southern New Jersey to help cleanup and maintain the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in the town of Vineland, a burial site that’s more than a century-old. The area, which is also known as Soldiers Home Cemetery, is dotted with at least 500 white marble headstones. Some of the graves belong to soldiers that served in the Civil War and the Spanish-American War of 1898. IAM Eastern Territory Special Representative Bryan Stymacks, a former U.S. Marine, drove hours from Maryland to participate in the event which was sponsored by the New Jersey AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council.

“As a veteran I always like to take time to appreciate those that wore the uniform before me, to understand the history of our nation and the sacrifices that those brave men and women made,” said Stymacks. “It felt good to give back a bit of my time in their service and honor them by cleaning up the cemetery, it really felt like I almost owed it to them, a way of saying thank you.”

Stymacks brought his two young sons to the event where they spent several hours picking up debris, wiping headstones and placing American flags at gravesites.

“I love bringing my boys to events like this. It gives us time to talk about things like honor, duty, sacrifice, and respect,” said Stymacks. “They weren’t born yet while I was in the service but they know how much that time meant to me, so when we go do things like wreath laying or cleanup projects together they really give it their all. It makes me proud to see them so willing to give their time to honor our veterans.”

Stymacks, who served in the Iraq War, said a more than 20 union leaders, ranging from the AFSCME to the IBEW, attended the cleanup. He urges other patriotic Machinists to volunteer at similar events in their local community.

“I would definitely encourage more of our union family to get out and participate in these events,” said Stymacks. “It was so humbling to walk between the graves of so many brave men and women that fought for our country. Especially at this location where most of the graves dated back to the 1880’s and early 1900’s.”

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