Volunteers and employees from Casey Trees listen to remarks and safety instructions before they start planting trees on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall near Brucker Hall and the Old Post Chapel, Nov. 16 (Photo by Rachel Larue).

A large group of people braced the wind Nov. 16 in order to bring new life to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. About 60 volunteers were on base --from graduate horticulture students to master gardeners, members of Tree Stewards of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax and Casey Trees Citizen Foresters, Park Construction Company, Advisory Board Company and Calvert Company, all from D.C. -- to help plant 21 trees near the Old Post Chapel and Tri-services parking lot. Additional trees were planted along the walkway between Brucker Hall and the grounds near Headquarters Bldg. 59.

Casey Trees of Washington, D.C., crew member Jabarri Brew, gave safety advice and other instructions to everyone. "There are a lot of funerals here on the joint base taking place today. This is a place of respect, so keep that in mind as you are working," Brew said. Moments later, The Old Guard's Caisson Platoon, on their team of working horses, pulled a wagon carrying a flag-covered casket to the final resting place for a deceased Air Force member. Brew and the group of tree planters, JBM-HH federal civilians and a National Cherry Blossom Festival representative, stood reverently until the funeral procession passed.

The trees planted on the Fort Myer portion of JBM-HH replaced missing or dying trees and will improve the tree canopy on the joint base.

Coordinated by JBM-HH Directorate of Environmental Management, the project was overseen by Kristie Lalire, DEM's cultural resources program manager. JBM-HH has partnered successfully with Casey Trees on two previous tree planting events. Volunteers registered and were assigned to teams led by volunteer experts. Lalire welcomed everyone to historic JBM-HH and thanked the group for the work they were about to do.

"This is the first time we've come into Virginia to plant our trees," said Jim Woodworth, Casey Trees director of tree planting. "The trees were donated to the Army by Casey Trees with contributions made by the Army Officers Wives Club of the Greater Washington Area from sales at the Fort Myer Thrift Shop and the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C."

Some of the trees planted have a special connection to trees planted earlier this year on the Fort Lesley J. McNair portion of JBM-HH. The April 19 ceremonial cherry tree planting at Fort McNair 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.

"We're proud to be a part of this project and donate these trees, which will continue the legacy of the national cherry trees here," said Sue Porter, vice chair of the National Cherry Blossom Festival board of directors.

"It's very exciting to be here with the [Yoshino] legacy trees -- three trees [which grew] from original cuttings from the original trees on the [Washington] Tidal Basin," Porter said. Porter referred to the centennial celebration of the Cherry Blossom Festival and told everyone the trees planted on JBM-HH will be part of a legacy.

Just as the festival will continue for another 100 years, the Yoshino trees and other varieties of trees being planted, would live on and be seen by many people, among them, those who come here to attend funerals of our military heroes.

"The trees will also help with shading sidewalks and aid as heat barriers near the sidewalks and parking lot in areas they are being planted," added Woodworth.

The group of tree -- planters armed with shovels and other equipment -- walked with group leaders to their team's assigned area and began the arduous task of digging holes in the ground. Casey Trees personnel had set out the 21 trees in specific areas for planting. They also filled wheel barrows with bags of pine bark mulch and manure to deliver to the teams to use once all the trees were planted. "Each tree was watered with a 25 gallon, slow release water bag," said Sara Turner, Casey Trees urban forestry manager. "This is the amount a newly planted tree needs per week. We call these tubes an 'ooze tube' -- they slowly release the water into the ground for deep watering."
The Yoshino Japanese cherry trees were planted along the sidewalk along side Brucker Hall and Headquarters Bldg. 59. Also on the lawn between the walkway and the grassy lawn where the command Christmas tree is located are flowering red dogwoods, a tulip and deodar cedar tree. Other trees planted Nov. 16 include: Loblolly pines, Eastern White pines and London Plain trees.
"We were unsure about the soil quality and how hard the ground would be in the areas we planted these trees," said Brew. "The soil quality is quite good here, so we didn't really need to use manure. Instead we used shredded wood chips and organic matter. This really is a beautiful installation. It's my first time [on JBM-HH], however, my father worked here years ago."

Volunteer Erica Siler, an environmental educator with a background in horticulture, was excited to be part of the tree planting on JBM-HH. "I found out about the project through my husband. I grew up in Paxton, a small town in Illinois, and used to always play around the many trees at home," said Siler. "I think doing a project like this creates a real sense of community and has a lasting impact."
"I'm very pleased with the turnout and it's an honor we were able to come to JBM-HH and do this [volunteer] work," said Mark Desantis, a Casey Trees of Washington development associate in charge of fundraising, direct communications and grant writing. Desantis admitted he was nervous about the turnout because it was Casey's first foray in Virginia and the project was scheduled on a weekday and a Friday when there was excessive traffic.

"Planting these trees, which will live for hundreds of years, in an area so close to those who have given their life for our country, is a beautiful way to give back to others who will see them, and remember those who served," said Brew.

Page last updated Tue November 20th, 2012 at 15:37