By Anika Shah
The American Legion Family Post 148 in Riverview hosts an annual community cleanup and flag replacement event at Hackney Cemetery. This year, the event will be on Saturday, September 11 from 9-11 a.m. The whole community is invited to participate.
Hackney Cemetery in Riverview is where many members of the American Legion are buried, dating back to the 1850s. The American Legion has been responsible for maintaining the graveyard since it started.
Sons of the American Legion First Vice Commander Steven Arndt has been a primary caretaker of the graveyard for seven years.
Arndt, a veteran of the Air Force and National Guard, said, “I love it. It’s my obligation not only to veterans but to the community.”
Arndt was mentored by the founder of the Hackney Cemetery caretaking community, Florence Sikes. Sikes passed away last year.
Last year, approximately 120 community residents attended the event.
Speaking on the experience, Arndt explained, “The folks you see showing up are really involved. … It’s been a thrill [and] an adventure every time. … I love to see how many new people come. … I give a brief history of the graveyard [and] show them things and tell them about it.”
One of Arndt’s favorite parts is teaching kids about the history of the graveyard and helping them to replace flags. “The kids are so respectful. … they take it with pride, … it’s some great stuff,” he said.
In addition to the 9/11 cleanup, there are also quarterly cleanups where other groups get involved.
Arndt expounded, “We have been having the high school historical society, archaeology department, ROTC [and] Navy Cadets come out. Next month, I am doing a separate one with the Navy Chief’s Club.”
The event is funded by donations and support from the community. People are encouraged to bring rakes, brooms, battery-operated weed whackers and blowers if they can. Refreshments and snacks will also be available. This year, the American Legion will be replacing about 140 flags at the graveyard.
For more information, visit @HackneyCemetery on Facebook.