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Saluting Branches Program

Saluting Branches: Arborists United for Veteran Remembrance 2015 Summary

Camp Butler Director Addressing The Group

The Saluting Branches Day of Service on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 produced a united front of arborist and urban forestry professionals honoring our veterans by providing much needed tree care service to 27 veteran cemetery sites in 20 states. Nationwide, it is estimated that these groups provided 8,000 hours of labor, donated equipment use and provided over one million dollars’ worth of landscape improvements in tree pruning, planting, stump grinding and other tree care services. Volunteers turned out to help keep our veterans’ cemeteries safe, beautiful places for all those who visit. See video.  Work began at 8:30 with climbers ascending trees and ground crew members hauling and disposing of debris. Tree work continued until 3:00 PM.  In Illinois, three National cemeteries were served: Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield, IL (in existence when Abraham Lincoln was alive), Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, IL and the Rock Island National Cemetery. 

Camp Butler National Cemetery

Camp Butler Nationals Cemetery Staff, IDNR and SIU Foresters Planting an Abraham Lincoln Bur Oak

                                         Ameren Crews removing a Honey Locust at Camp Butler

At Camp Butler crews from Champaign, IL, Ameren, IDNR, SIU, and a private company from Indiana provided assistance in tree removal and trimming. Mark Nega from Rainbow Tree helped organize the Springfield event. The management goal was to remove high risk trees or trees that had grown in conflict with the memorials infrastructure and put headstones at risk. The crews did a superb job of not damaging any headstones in very tight conditions. At this event IDNR donated a burr oak tree propagated by the State Nursery staff. This tree was from a tree found during the Washington, IL tree survey conducted by the IDNR Urban and Community Forestry Program, Trees Forever, U of I Extension as a part of the Tornado Recovery efforts.  The local story goes that a friend of Abraham Lincoln planted the parent tree in honor and memory of his dear friend Abraham Lincoln.  WAND News covered the event.

City of Champaign Stump Grinding at Camp Butler                        

 City of Champaign Crew at Camp Butler

Indiana Based Tree Care                                      Camp Butler Saluting Branches Crew

Company  Volunteering

Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery

In Elwood, Illinois at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, Cemetery Director Sean Baumgartner’s management goal was to remove ash tree in an effort to combat Emerald Ash Borer was the focus for 40 volunteers. The Elwood volunteers were there to lend a hand with tree upkeep at the 982-acre veteran’s cemetery by pruning branches, taking out dead trees and planting new ones. James Teiber, Joliet, IL Arborist of 20 years was the lead on the project. When Teiber was asked by one of the event's national organizers to help coordinate the local volunteer day, he said he didn’t let the full day of unpaid work stop him from stepping up. “It’s what you do to give back,” he said, looking out over the rows of headstones marking the graves of men and women who served in the military and the sacrifices they made.  “I gave up a day off from work, (some of them) gave up their lives."  Teiber was working with a volunteer crew planting about $2,500 worth of new trees donated for the event by local nurseries, including The Fields of Crest Hill and Joliet’s Green Glen Nursery.  Jeff Marrs of Stump’s Tree Care volunteered. In doing so he honored some of his friends who were laid to rest at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.

Rock Island National Cemetery

This event helped the Rock Island National Cemetery staff get caught up on tree care. Charles Goodrich, the site leader, said this first-time event will help national cemeteries "get caught up on work that otherwise would not be done due to funding." . "It means a lot," said Matt Tomes, the grounds manager. "It's nice to see people wanting to give back to the veterans. These guys did a lot for their country and seeing people give back just makes you feel good."

Volunteer Mike Coers of Hillsdale said he jumped at the chance to help. The cemetery's grounds manager told News 8 there's always work that needs to be done at the cemetery, and he's grateful for the extra help.  "I figured it was a good excuse to come out and visit the grandparents," Coers said, who explained his grandparents were buried at the cemetery. "There are a lot of trees that could use a lot of work, a lot of trees that need to come down. There's a lot of hazardous stuff out here," Coers said, who was covered in wood chips from a morning of chain sawing.  Some of the trees are dying, others have limbs that are vulnerable to snapping, Coers said.