Rock Island Arsenal holds first appreciation ceremony for cemetery staff

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ROCK ISLAND --   As the Rock Island Arsenal National Cemetery staff begins preparing for the Veterans’ Day ceremony this weekend, First Army Commanding General, Lt. Gen Stephen Twitty took the time to thank them for their service Wednesday, November 8.

“It can be rain, sleet, snow, you name it…. they are doing the work of God to make sure that our brave men and women under those stones are taken care of,” said Twitty during an appreciation luncheon ceremony held for the cemetery staff.

Twitty organized the event after recognizing the team’s hard work during his regular run around the cemetery.

“They were on their hands and knees…. they were scrubbing the tombstones and it was coming down rain…it did not phase them,” says Twitty.

For cemetery foreman Matt Tomes, it’s a job he’s more than honored to do.

“The guys truly do care about that cemetery and they care about the veterans and they care about their job. It’s not just a job to them,” says Tomes.

Out of the 13 cemetery workers on the Arsenal, ten are veterans, Tomes is one of the officers on reserves.

“I know what it’s like to be gone from your family and your friends for an extended period of time. It’s nice when you come back you get that welcoming feeling from the Quad Cities. We want to give that same feeling to the people who come to the cemetery,”

Cemetery staff also have a number of relatives buried on the grounds. For Tomes, both his father and grandfather are buried there.

“When I’m in the sections that they’re buried in, I’ll swing by and their headstones and I’ll say, ‘hey dad or hey grandpa’,” says Tomes.

He’s just happy to be able to do his part.

“This was really nice that the arsenal is doing this for us, we totally appreciate it but we do it for the veterans and their families,” says Tomes.

The Rock Island Arsenal Cemetery staff buried 836 people last year.