ARLINGTON, Va. — Darrell Stafford inspected a freshly dug grave at Arlington National Cemetery recently and nodded. The burial plot, 5 feet by 10 feet, was ready for the coming ceremony. It was just one of 28 funerals that he would help oversee that day.
During his 32 years at the cemetery, Mr. Stafford has witnessed thousands of burials, and he has approached each one with military precision.
“You see a 22-year-old mother at a grave site who doesn’t have a husband anymore with her little kid,” he said. He has also seen veterans with missing limbs visit comrades’ graves. “In this business you see it day in and day out, and you can’t just start to think that this is routine.”
….Mr. Stafford, 56, manages a team of some 20 caretakers who conduct the burials of both coffins and cremated remains. A tall man with a graying beard and gruff voice, he said his team’s attention to detail was vital, whether for the burial of a private or a general….
“It’s a place of heroes, in my opinion,” Mr. Stafford said. Later, he added, “This is for the guys who earned it.”