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I’m Robert Bissonnette. I work at Calverton National Cemetery as a caretaker. I started here in 2013.
I was in the Marine Corps for eight years, got out and joined the Navy Reserves as a Seabee in 2017. I’m currently still serving in the Reserves.
As a caretaker in the markers section, we take care of all the grave markers, the upright headstones and flat headstones, which are the bronze plaques level with the ground.
Daily, we maintain and set new headstones for new interments, maintain and clean them.
If you ever look down a row in a section, they’re all aligned. On a regular basis, we go through and realign and raise headstones.
We’re on 640 acres developed over a total of 1,100 acres, which is massive. For the most part, our operations stay the same daily, whether the weather is awful or awesome.
Regularly, it’s about 70 to 100 people to maintain and carry on everything that happens here.
My father was a veteran, my grandfather was a veteran and a couple of aunts and uncles served. To be honest, I was a little wayward in high school, and my father said to me that it was the best thing he’d ever done.
It was 100% the best decision I ever made.
Here, my crew is basically all Marines. We’re like-minded; we can share humor and past experiences. That’s an environment that I don’t think people get a lot in their workplace. It’s fortunate for us to be able to have that here.
You tell someone you work at a cemetery, they immediately are probably thinking something morbid.
But if you look at it the other way, we get to take care of veterans and their families every day.
We’re here, obviously, as people come in to grieve, but we make it nicer, or better, I would say. It’s a beautiful place and we put a lot of hard work into it so that it is that way. I don’t ever like to look at it in a negative way because coming to work every day, outside, in a gorgeous environment with shrines everywhere paying homage to veterans is gratifying.
“The Work We Do” is a Suffolk Times multimedia project profiling workers on the North Fork.