Celebrating Veterans With An Annual Day Of Service

Celebrating an Annual Day of Service

The tree care industry is chock-full of examples of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. Take the Saluting Branches program.

This wonderful, heartwarming program, is a partnership between Rainbow Tree Service Hampton Roads Care and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide a day of volunteer tree care — Sept. 20 this year — for veterans’ cemeteries across the country.

“The tree industry is passionate about honoring our veterans and doing what they can to improve the veterans’ sites and it’s really a way to communicate the benefits of trees and how arborists can help,” Debra Peterson, the person responsible for starting Saluting Branches, told The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Saluting Branches started in 2015, when on Sept. 23 that year, more than 1,000 volunteers in 20 states spent the day climbing and strategically trimming trees to ensure the safety of visitors at national cemeteries.

This year, participation was even better than in the previous two: over 1,600 volunteers, at 39 cemeteries in 34 states, donated their time to honor our veterans. (Planned work at six cemeteries was postponed or canceled due to Hurricane Irma). The estimated value of the work this year, according to Saluting Branches, was $1.6 million – just for the man hours. This figure doesn’t include any costs for cranes or other equipment that was used at the cemeteries.

“A lot of the veteran cemeteries do not have the staffing or the funding needed to take care of their trees,” Patrick Platenberg, Saluting Branches site leader at the Fort Harrison Veterans Cemetery (Helena, Montana), told KTVH-TV on Sept. 20. “Arborists who are visiting the cemeteries, who have family or friends buried, they noticed and got together and decided that this is a good thing to do as a tree worker.”

Many volunteers have a personal connection to this annual day of service. “My father was a veteran; this was a way to participate in a day of service and honor veterans,” volunteer Betsy Nordell told KTVH-TV.

At Baltimore National Cemetery, volunteer arborist Steve Castrogiovanni explained to WBFF-TV, “we wanted to give back to those that served that paid the ultimate price. It’s the least we could do to make the cemetery a little bit prettier.”

On Facebook, the Saluting Branches page displays hundreds of photos of the work volunteers did across the country on Sept. 20. The Facebook page shows many appreciative comments left by people who participated in the program, work for the cemeteries involved or simply have loved ones buried there.

You can also follow Saluting Branches on Twitter @SaluteBranches.

The Saluting Branches program is truly a fantastic endeavor. Let’s hope that in 2018, even more arborists and volunteers participate and join in on this special day of volunteerism and remembrance.

I’d like to thank these thoughtful and selfless arborists — and all participants – who decided to use their talents, skills and resources to improve and make better where our late veterans are laid to rest.

Once again, we salute you.

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