Saluting Branches Visits Oklahoma, Donates A Day's Work To Honor Military

Wednesday, September 18th 2019, 8:04 pm
By: Amelia Mugavero

A national nonprofit called Saluting Branches came to Oklahoma for the first time today. More than 35,000 tree professionals around the country donated a day's work to honor America's military.

It's a lot of work cleaning up a cemetery this big, but for these arborist it's not work, it's service.

"This was a selfless act," Saluting Branches Site Director Phil Swart said. 

Over the past five years, Saluting Branches has donated thousands of hours of tree work to national cemeteries in 40 states but this is the first year it's come to Oklahoma.

"It makes me really proud to see people coming from all different companies to work for a common goal and the common goal is our veterans," Swart said. 

Over 40 volunteers and seven to eight private companies came out to work.

For arborist Ryan Adee, this day is even more special. Just two days ago Adee learned his great uncle, a Vietnam veteran, was buried at Fort Gibson. 

"I learned two nights ago that my great uncle was buried here, so I really wanted to come out and find him," Adee said. "It is an honor to be honest, it's an opportunity to give back, I love what I do and then to volunteer the day to come out and help the cemetery to show some respect to have a beautiful ground for them to come."

Bill Rhoads is the director of the Fort Gibson and Fort Sill National Cemeteries. He says this act goes beyond just curb appeal.

"Our budget is set on cemetery operations, so we don't get to the trees until they become a problem, so for them to come in and do this for us and maintain the beauty of the facility, lets face it - if the trees look nice, the facility is going to look nice as well," Rhoads said. 

It was a day of cutting branches to honoring branches of military and those who've given the ultimate sacrifice. Though the men and women spent just hours serving, they gave years of beauty to a treasured Green Country Cemetery. 

Saluting Branches is planning a work day at the Fort Sill National Cemetery in the near future.