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Maintaining the grounds: Chattanooga National Cemetery ready for severe weather

Catoe says the cemetery's massive drain system will help keep flooding at a minimum and the 240 lb white marble stones won't be damaged. (image WTVC)

Rain or wind doesn't make it any harder to remember those who served, but it is hard to see their graves with flags and flowers tipped over.

"It's our job to take care of them," said Bill Catoe. He's the groundskeeper foreman of the cemetery and a Marine veteran. He's been part of the cemetery for ten years. As he picks up of some the weather-damaged flags, he thinks about Tuesday storm, when the remains of Subtropical Storm Alberto will hit.

"Burial duties are a lot more difficult," Catoe said. "We have 45,000 wet American flags that are down, so we'll have to wait for them to dry out so we can pick them out, so they don't mold or mildew."

Flags are down now but crews are getting help from community members like Rickey Smith, to keep the cemetery looking sharp before the storm.

"The flags should never touch the ground, said Smith. "Some have completely broke off the sticks. A lot of people spent a lot of time to come here and decorate the cemetery to give honor to our veterans."

Smith is a Navy veteran; he actually served during the same time as his father.

Catoe says the cemetery's massive drain system will help keep flooding at a minimum and the 240 lb white marble stones won't be damaged.

"The ground gets really soft, it makes moving equipment difficult if you're going to do a burial," he added. "Just have a few safety issues like that, involves us being real careful."

Should Catoe find anything out of place after the storms hit, he says he'll be ready to answer that call of duty.

"Work goes on here, regardless if its raining, snowing or dry," he said. "We just take care of our veterans no matter what the weather is. They fought for us in all kinds of weather, so we'll take care of them the same way."

Catoe says once the area becomes dry the cemetery will call on the public's help to pick up the 45,000 flags at the cemetery grounds.

Brandon Evans reported live from the cemetery Tuesday morning. Watch his report here.

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