Darrell Rogan drives from his home in Gallatin to his job at the Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery in Pegram. The hour-long commute gives him time to think about the hallowed grounds that are always on display.
He takes pride in keeping the grounds pristine for thousands of Tennesseans who are visiting this month, especially on Memorial Day.
“We’re responsible for putting in the headstones. We’re responsible for making sure the headstones are clean and just the grounds are taken care of.”
Nearly 14,000 military veterans and their families are buried in Pegram. Loved ones come to remember their sacrifice and share their stories.
Darrell Rogan listens.
“It’s very important because you never know what people are going through and at that time they need somebody to talk to and I’m happy to be there to support them,” he says.
Visitors sometimes leave money on the headstone. A penny lets the soldier’s family know that you visited the grave site. A nickel indicates a visit from someone who trained with the deceased at boot camp. A dime is left by someone who served with the soldier in some capacity. And a quarter at the grave means the visitor was with the soldier when he was killed.
The money is collected each month, placed in a fund and donated to Wreaths Across America, an organization that honors veterans by laying a wreath on each grave in December every year.
Darrell says it’s important for children to learn the value of freedom. He says he’s reminded of the soldiers’ courage and dedication each day. Keeping their final resting place meticulously maintained is a way he can show his respect.
“And it’s always an honor each day to do that,” he says. “Always an honor.”
The Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery in Pegram is open to visitors Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The Tennessee Department of Veterans Services also maintains and manages Veterans Cemeteries in Memphis, two in Knoxville and one at Parkers Crossroads in West Tennessee.