As valued partners in their local communities, SAME Posts make enormous contributions each year in areas such as STEM outreach, personal and professional development, and support to veterans. In 2019, the Society provided more than 4,630 hours assisting veterans and wounded warriors, and gave nearly $140,000 toward veteran support efforts.
For the Philadelphia Post, honoring America’s veterans is a focus of its annual work plan—and through one project in particular, it is making an enduring impact thanks to the volunteer hours of its members and the technical expertise of Sustaining Members.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE
Located 3-mi from where George Washington crossed the Delaware River in southeastern Pennsylvania, Washington Crossing National Cemetery (WCNC) formally opened in 2010 on 205-acres of property purchased by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The total campus covers 64-acres, with a 12-acre burial area, an administration and public information center complex, a maintenance facility, a flag assembly area, a columbarium complex, and committal shelters for funeral services.
Within the columbarium complex is a scattering garden that memorializes and allows veterans cremains to be dispersed over a bucolic pond setting. However, this garden area needed revitalization, having experienced significant erosion from a lack of proper drainage and ravaging by drought, storms, and a herd of native deer over the last nine years.
PROVIDING EXPERT SUPPORT
The Philadelphia Post was approached by a member who was familiar with the challenges facing the cemetery. In response, the Post created a volunteer committee to see what could be done to assist. The committee scheduled several site visits to develop conceptual design options that were provided by Maser Consulting, which were then evaluated and refined by the cemetery leaders. The final landscape plan was approved and embraced by the committee, which included erosion control solutions designed by Tetra Tech.
To execute the plan, the Post leveraged volunteer support from its members, industry partners, and other local organizations. Lewis Environmental, in partnership with Foley Cat, donated two days of labor to successfully construct a new secondary retaining wall and drainage system in support of the overall design. Local nurseries donated over 100 deer-resistant plants and shrubs, and the committee organized a planting day with over 30 volunteers from multiple Sustaining Member firms, students from nearby Conwell Egan High School, and members from the local VFW Post.
Through the cemetery’s gift fund, which is built from public donations, a fountain will be placed in the pond to highlight the scattering garden’s beauty. This fountain will also serve to aerate the pond and prevent algae growth.
During the planning stage of the scattering garden project, the Guardians of the WCNC reached out to SAME for assistance with drilling holes for new flag poles for the cemetery’s Avenue of Flags. The Philadelphia Post responded by engaging TWS Environmental, a Delaware-based service-disabled veteran owned small business, to lead the project. TWS donated and provided the project management, mark out, and labor for this endeavor, partnering with Sunbelt Rentals, which donated a Bobcat auger to complete the project. In total, the team sunk 22 holes through granite-filled soil to complete the Avenue of Flags, ensuring that this feature will continue to reinforce patriotism and national pride at the WCNC for future generations.
With the project completed, the scattering garden now features proper drainage, a defined landscaped area for sacred cremains to be put to rest by loved ones, as well as an established Avenue of Flags for donated burial flags to preserve the dignity and solemnity of our veterans’ final resting place.
SETTING THE STANDARD
Through the support of Sustaining Member firms, volunteer contributions, and relationships with other businesses and organizations in the area, the Philadelphia Post epitomizes the role that the Society can play in leading collaboration and being a vibrant partner in the community.
As Posts look to advance the goals set out in the new 2025 SAME Strategic Plan, working alongside local stakeholders and providing opportunities for members and companies to come together will be important in achieving the Society’s strategic outcome to “set the standard for active membership that creates lasting impact at the local and national levels.”