Historic Ceremonial Cherry Tree Planting
April 20, 2012
By Rhonda Apple
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall hosted a ceremonial cherry tree planting on the banks of the Washington Channel, at Fort Lesley J. McNair, April 19. The ceremony was held in honor of the 100-year anniversary of the original gift of cherry trees from the people of Tokyo to the city of Washington in 1912. The presentation of colors was provided by an eight-member ceremonial team of The Joint Armed Forces Color Guard, followed by the singing of the national anthem by Master Sgt. Jon Deutsch, vocalist with The United States Army Band.
Host and JBM-HH Commander, Col. Carl R. Coffman acknowledged special guests, including Defense and Air Attache of the Embassy of Japan Maj. Gen Atsushi Hikita; Commanding General of Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington; Chair of the National Cherry Blossom Festival Board of Directors, Susan Norton; President of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Diana Mayhew; Director of the District of Columbia Office of Veterans Affairs, Matthew J. Cary; Chief Operating Officer for Casey Trees of Washington, D.C., Marty O'Brien; and other distinguished visitors.
"I'm proud to host today's ceremonial cherry tree planting as we prepare to add 10 more Yoshino cherry trees to Fort McNair's cherry tree canopy," Coffman said. "The planting of today's trees, however, did not just happen overnight. Today's event is a culmination of a two-year journey. It began with collaboration between our Directorate of Environmental Management, Casey Trees of Washington, D.C., and the many volunteers who conducted a tree survey here at Fort McNair in 2010."
He explained how this group collected information on the condition of all the existing trees and identified areas where trees should be added or replaced to improve the installation's tree canopy. "As a result of that work, 65 areas were identified as needing different species of trees to fill voids where trees were missing. Twenty-seven trees were planted last November and 38 trees were planted [Wednesday] -- to include the 10 new Yoshino cherry trees we are celebrating [Thursday] -- planted right here at the tip of the Fort McNair peninsula."
Coffman thanked the National Cherry Blossom Festival organization for the gift of the cherry trees and Casey Trees of Washington, D.C., "for leading the tree survey and providing the educational component on the planning and care of the trees. This is a gift that keeps on giving for another 100 years. It helps us in our mission to be responsible, environmental stewards in preserving and sustaining our trees and it improves our overall quality of life for all of us here at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and Southwest D.C."
During his speech, Linnington shared historical information he said "originated from documentation found in a folder buried in the JBM-HH Historian Kim Holien's office." Referencing an exchange of correspondence in 1922, the memos explained how the original Japanese cherry trees [which had been planted at Potomac Park in 1912] came to the Army War College, located on the grounds of the Washington Barracks, which is now known as Fort McNair.
Over the years, the harsh weather took a toll on most of the trees. In an effort to preserve the heritage of the trees, Linnington explained Fort McNair entered into an agreement with the U.S. National Arboretum of Washington, D.C., in 1983 to propagate cuttings from the four remaining cherry trees which were nurtured and able to grow into saplings, the first of which was planted at McNair on Arbor Day in 1996. "Now 28 years later, we come together once again to continue the tradition of adding to the legacy of the Yoshino Cherry Trees at Fort McNair as we add ten additional trees," said Linnington.