An area of about 20 city blocks surrounding the Marine Barracks in Southeast Washington is a lot cleaner today, thanks to the efforts of 500 personnel from the historic military post who spent more than six hours "picking up everything that didn't grow" along its streets and alleys.

Those are the words of Staff Sgt. Gene Polhamus of the barracks' public affairs office, describing a volunteer, good-neighbor clean-up effort on Monday that yielded 21 truckloads of refuse that were hauled away by city sanitation trucks.

The Marines collected not only paper, cans and bottles, but such assorted items as a rusted-out street sweeper, three or four discarded refrigerators, an old water heater, lumber, sheet metal, and an old door thrown out of a second-story window by someone who saw the crew at work and decided upon a dramatic contribution.

Marines also picked up hypodermic needles discarded by junkies and killed two large rats.

"A lot of the neighbors were really receptive," said Sgt. Polhamus. "They came out and thanked us."

Providing a clean-up crew probably wasn't what President Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he approved the construction of the Marine Barracks as part of Washington's early defenses. But he, like us, would be proud.