This Delaware company views the landscape services it provides to military cemeteries as its duty
Winemiller’s Greenleaf Services, Inc.
Founder and President: Joseph B. Winemiller
Headquarters: Wilmington, Del.
Markets: Federal properties, including cemeteries in a region extending from Washington, D.C., to Maine to Ohio
Services: Grounds maintenance, design/build and landscape installations
Employees: Information not provided
It’s pride not prestige that motivates Joseph B. Winemiller when it comes to the services his company performs at some of the nation’s most sacred sites. One of these sites is Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
“The work is fulfilling. When you walk through any of the gates, if you’re not touched somehow then you’re not working in the right place,” says Winemiller. “Every minute at Arlington is awe-inspiring because you’re in the company of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country.”
Winemiller’s Greenleaf Services, Inc., based in Wilmington, Del., is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business. Winemiller, the owner, served four years in the U.S. Navy and was discharged in 1988 after suffering an accident on the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier. (See sidebar for more on the USS Kitty Hawk.)
Greenleaf Services, Inc. tackles tree removal and pruning projects, such as this one here at Long Island National Cemetery.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF WINEMILLER’S GREENLEAF SERVICES, INC.
Greenleaf is a teaming partner for grounds care at the site under contract with Davey Commercial Landscape Service, a division of the Ohio-headquartered Davey Tree Expert Company. Though Davey was the job’s incumbent contractor dating back to 1996, the assignment became a joint bid once Arlington set aside the contract as one targeted for total small business in 2011. Greenleaf began services there on July 1, 2011. There is a base-year contract with two option years, says Winemiller.
The turfgrass in the mall leading to The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier must be green and weed-free.
“I feel like I’m serving still. I’m still connected. I enjoyed my years in service. I would have made it a career more than likely and stayed in if I hadn’t been injured,” says Winemiller.
Winemiller’s stepson, James Sampson, vice president of operations for Greenleaf, is onsite daily at Arlington. Sampson is the turf application supervisor and oversees chemical applications, seeding, sodding, hydroseeding and lawn renovations.
“I’m really proud of him. This is an opportunity of a lifetime for him to be onsite there. When you’re driving in every morning you get goose bumps. All of our guys understand that this is a special place,” says Winemiller of the work at Arlington National Cemetery.
Sampson is day-to-day operations partner with Mark Nielsen, formerly a Davey manager in its commercial grounds division. Nielsen has been working at Arlington for the last five years. Indeed Winemiller also worked for Davey Tree, although it was years ago.
On his own
After recovering from the back injury he sustained aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, Winemiller worked for Davey for two seasons. On weekends, he started his own business. In 1992, he incorporated Greenleaf Landscaping and went on his own. He changed the business’ name to Greenleaf Services to incorporate a larger scope of services. This allowed him to bid on more projects.
The two companies, Greenleaf Services and Davey Tree, share office space and equipment storage garages on the Arlington grounds at a private contractor area.
When he began the business he took on both residential and commercial accounts. By the time of its 10th anniversary, however, he had moved the company strictly into commercial, mostly apartment complexes and large retail sites in Delaware. Since 2008, Greenleaf has focused on federal jobs, including the grounds at the VA Medical Center in Wilmington, Del., near the company’s headquarters.
“I chose to transform the company from commercial contracts to government contracts. There was no question that’s what I wanted to do,” Winemiller says.
His company is now the contractor of choice at Arlington and other national cemeteries in a region stretching from Virginia to Maine and Ohio: Baltimore National Cemetery and Loudon Park National Cemetery, both in Maryland; Beverly National Cemetery, New Jersey; Calverton National Cemetery and Long Island National Cemetery, state of New York; Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, Ohio; and Togus National Cemetery in Maine. The company also maintains the 15-acre grounds at the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. That task requires the efforts of four to five employees one day each week.
Winemiller enjoys working on these Department of Veteran Affairs and National Cemetery Administration projects as well as working with other government agencies. Responsibilities vary at each national site, but his company covers everything from tree work to string trimming, grounds maintenance and more.
“Arlington actually takes us back to our roots, which is grounds and lawn maintenance,” he says.
When they’re working on the road, Greenleaf crews stay at hotels during the workweek and return to their homes on weekends. “We’ve built this niche and branched out. Our men travel, then get their hours at good-paying jobs,” says Winemiller.
Getting certified and becoming verified as a veteran-owned enterprise was “an extensive undertaking,” he says. It involved personal and company financial statements and corporate documentation. It’s required to bid on federal projects.
Now, Winemiller, 47, hires other veterans and puts them to work. Greenleaf employs veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He recently hired more veterans who started at Arlington in March. He wants to put as many veterans to work as possible.
He says that government work is different from corporate work. “The contracts are large. You have to sit down and read them carefully. It’s a different world,” explains Winemiller. “A lot more is involved than with working with an apartment complex, for example.”
The work at Arlington National is Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The duties are as basic: mowing 578 acres in 70 sections and trimming 400,000 set headstones. Of the 70 sections, which are divided into quadrants, the crews might be in 20 sections a day. Teams mow for four days. The fifth day is reserved for cleanup.
“To mow 70 different sections we do have a fixed schedule and keep to it as much as possible,” Nielsen says. “Weather is the biggest problem for us, but we always finish the mowing.”
The rolling green hills are dotted with some 9,000 trees, many of them several hundred years old. The grounds also contain flower gardens, some of which are the result of PLANET’s Renewal and Remembrance annual service project there. More than 300 lawn and landscape pros donate their services and equipment one day each July beautifying the grounds there.
With as many as 30 burials a day, the landscaping crews are required to work around services. They must be quiet and respectful, in fact, practically invisible. Many of the funeral processions begin from the adjacent base at nearby Fort Myer, which traces its history to being a civil ware base, and the two chapels there. If there’s a moving funeral motorcade at Arlington National Cemetery all equipment is silenced, and employees suspend landscape services until it passes.
“We don’t go fast,” Nielsen explains. “If a family member is visiting a gravesite, we work around the family member. We’ll go back later and finish up later that day. Families come first. At Arlington, everyone gets and shows respect.”
Crews are also notified of special ceremonies during each morning’s 10- to 15-minute briefing. More than 1,000 special events take place at the cemetery each year. They could be anything from a visitation from President Barack Obama to a Boy Scouts of America wreath laying.
“We work around it all just the same,” says Nielsen, except with some special exceptions. For example, all landscape services are suspended during visits by President Barack Obama visitations and the Secret Service entourage, sometimes for the day. The President visits Arlington on set days like Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but also visits unexpectedly. For example, when the Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, visited to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier last December, President Obama was his escort.
Greenleaf Services gives preferential treatment to U.S. military veterans in its hiring process.
Greenleaf Services hires more on attitude than experience. The company favors candidates that communicate well and demonstrate a sense of service beyond just showing up and performing routine tasks.
“Our goal is to not let the family know we’re working,” Nielsen says. “Mowers and trimmers are noisy. You can hear them up to a quarter-mile away, but we make it look like [and sound like] we’re not even working there. Everyday our job is to not make our presence known. Here, it’s all about respect.”
All mowers at Arlington are rear discharge, which helps to keep grass clippings off headstones. Team Greenleaf/Davey has multiple riding mowers, all rear-discharge, all Hustlers with 25 hp Kawasaki engines, and also walk-behinds, several trucks onsite and about 20 string trimmers.
Special protocols for landscaping services when working in a military cemetery include ceasing operations and being silent when funeral processions pass by.
Greenleaf and Davey share a mixed crew. Winemiller says the key in all federal contracts is teaming with top-caliber partners like Davey. “You trust them as much as they trust you, and you’re looking out for them as much as they’re looking out for you,” he says.
Originally from a tiny town of 450 in Brucebille, Ind., Winemiller still works, though carefully, being sure to avoid lifting or chain saw work, for example. He serves mainly as a side supervisor, often setting up jobs and getting them started. He does all Greenleaf’s bidding, but Arlington is really a special setting.
“It’s our nation’s most coveted cemetery,” Winemiller says. “We all really have to be at the top of our game. At a place like that, failure is not an option. At Arlington, I’m honored, but I’m honored to work at every one of the national cemeteries.”
The author is a gentleman farmer and experienced reporter and writer who lives in Quakertown, Pa. Contact him at [email protected].
A Long Illustrious Career
BREMERTON, Wash. – The aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) was decommissioned May 12, 2009, at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., after more than 48 years of service.
She was laid down by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, N.J., Dec.27, 1956, and launched May 21, 1960. She was the last conventionally fueled in service with the U.S. Navy. During her long career she had 407,507 arrested carrier landings and 448,235 catapult launches. It is estimated that more than 100,000 sailors served on the USS Kitty Hawk during her career.
While operating from Japan as the Navy’s only forward deployed aircraft carrier, Kitty Hawk took part in dozens of exercises and operations, including being the first aircraft carrier to take part in Operation Enduring Freedom in the Arabian Sea, and her aircraft took part in the opening strikes of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Kitty Hawk had been the Navy’s oldest active warship since 1998 and, at her decommissioning in 2009, turned over the title to the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise). Kitty Hawk was also the Navy’s last remaining diesel-fueled aircraft carrier.