News: Fort Bliss National Cemetery wins excellence award
Story by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Pawlak
AUSTIN, Texas - The Fort Bliss National Cemetery was presented the 2013 Texas Environmental Excellence Award by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at their Environmental Trade Fair and Conference at the Austin Convention Center May 1.
The TEEA is the state’s highest honor, awarded to citizens and corporations in nine distinct categories to preserve and protect the Texas environment.
“Being recognized with the Texas Environmental Excellence Award for 2013 is an honor for both the Fort Bliss National Cemetery and the National Cemetery Administration,” said Andrew D. Matthews, director of the Fort Bliss National Cemetery.
With a scarce amount of rain each year, it is difficult to maintain a lush, green lawn in a desert climate. The cemetery has attempted for decades to provide an ideal setting for the final resting place of about 50,000 veterans, but still had patches of dead grass throughout the cemetery.
“Over time it became obvious that the cemetery did not have access to a sufficient amount of water to maintain the turf to NCA’s national shrine standards,” said Matthews. “Using an environmental-friendly, water-wise landscape allows us to keep our promise to provide a fitting tribute to the service and sacrifice of veterans, families and the nation.”
Officials used zero-scaping by replacing the nearly 60 acres of turf grass with decomposed granite surfacing materials, approximately 1,200 drought-resistant trees and 5,000 plants and shrubs irrigated with a water efficient system.
This has also decreased water usage by 90 percent, 56 million gallons a year, and energy use by 47 percent through reduced pumping, said Matthews.
“The cemetery saves an estimated $400,000 a year as a result of the water-wise landscape environment,” said Matthews. “The savings are from reduced water, labor, fertilizer and pesticide costs.”
With the new landscaping, the National Cemetery is able to spend more time concentrating on the needs of the veterans and their family members, Matthews added.
“We are able to focus on burying our veterans with dignity and compassion, and help the community recognize the service and sacrifice of those who have given so much,” said Matthews. “We are honored to provide a beautiful final resting place for our nation’s heroes and proud to be a partner with Fort Bliss and all the service men and women stationed here.”