BIRDEYE, AR (KAIT) - A national honor is awarded to just four state veterans cemeteries in the nation this year.
Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery at Birdeye was among the four to be recognized.
On Friday, Governor Asa Hutchinson and Randy Reeves, Under Secretary of Memorial Affairs, spoke at the recognition and presented the cemetery staff with an award for operational excellence.
The cemetery scored 94 percent on a federal inspection of cemetery operations, putting them in the top five percent.
Mr. Reeves, who is also a veteran, said this is something that Arkansas and its veterans should take a lot of pride in.
"To tell our veteran's stories. To be able to ensure that they are never forgotten, we have to have places of honor like this And it makes my heart swell with pride to be here and know that Arkansas is doing just that," said Reeves.
Mary Anne Parker, the cemetery manager, told Region 8 News that they didn't find out about the award until two weeks before.
She said that when she called federal officials after getting questions from locals, they told her they were planning to keep it a secret.
"We were just thrilled," said Parker. "Not necessarily for us [the staff] because we know the type of work we do, but definitely for the publicity that the cemetery will receive so that veterans will know that we're here."
Parker said that the cemetery staff is always working to improve the cemetery.
"We look every day for ways to do things better, faster, smarter," said Parker.
Dozens of veterans also came out to watch the recognition, and reflect on the growth the cemetery has seen.
Carl Mosby and Billy Cribbs with the Jonesboro chapter of the Disabled American Veterans have gotten to see the cemetery grow since the beginning.
"We dedicated this several years ago, out under an oak tree down here." said Mosby, "The governor came out for the dedication of the land, and from then its really built up. We're really proud of Northeast Arkansas and this cemetery because its a place where the veterans can be buried and it's going to be here for hundreds of years."
Governor Hutchinson said that the recognition is an important reminder of how special veterans are to their community.
"I think it's important that we, in every age, in every generation remember the sacrifice of our veterans." said Hutchinson, "Sometimes it's easy to go about our business and forget it. But veterans have given so much, whether it is in wartime or peacetime, and we need to remember that service and how important it is."