DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- Dugway observed Earth Day and Arbor Day April 21 with students from the Dugway High School, at the Jordan M. Byrd Memorial Ballfield in English Village. Dugway's Garrison Environmental Programs team organized the event, as part of a science, technology, engineering and mathematics or (STEM) outreach to help students become more knowledgeable about the environment and their community.

"I am excited to be here with you as we celebrate Earth Day," said Col. Sean Kirschner, Dugway's commander, to the more than 120 kindergarten-to-high school students from the school. "Earth Day is a time to step back, take a breath, and appreciate where we live. It's also important to value, cherish, and protect our environment."

Kirschner noted that the ballfield holds special significance for the school, Dugway, and the Army. Spc. Jordan M. Byrd attended Dugway High School, where he graduated in 2009 as Senior Class President, a member of the National Honor Society, with a varsity letter earned on the baseball team.

Byrd was proud to serve his country. Many were touched by the tender story of the heroic young 19-year-old combat medic, who lost his life in Afghanistan as he rendered medical aid to a wounded battle buddy.

"The trees you plant today will add much to the beauty of this memorial, the school ground, and our community," Kirschner said.

Dugway's environmental team is working with Tree City USA. This effort promotes works across the nation to create greener communities, particularly by adding trees to create urban tree canopies, which are vital to protecting our environment, said Robbie Knight, DPG wildlife biologist.

"We want you to get your hands dirty today," said Don Smith, Dugway's garrison manager. "This tree planting is part of a larger initiative to remove older, thirsty trees at Dugway and replace them with younger, drought-tolerant saplings."

Once the digging began, students took turns filling the large deep holes around each of the four trees. Several times, students jumped into the hole to stomp the earth with their feet, looking much like the lost boys of Neverland circling a fire. More than a few students shoved the dirt using their hands like bulldozers with satisfaction and pride written on their faces as they watched the dirt fall.

The highlight of the afternoon was a chance the see some "critters" from the desert nearby. Robert Delph, a wildlife biologist and entomologist, with the Natural Resource Office here held up beetles, crickets, lizards, horned toads and snakes for students to see and touch.

"This is cool!" "Look at that!" and "Whoa, that's a big one!" were just a few of the comments by students who mashed together trying to get the best view. For many, it was their first close-up look. Snakes were the most popular, enlisting multiple squeals from the girls and bravado claims from the boys.

Students with dirty knees, dirty hands and sweaty faces finally walked back to the school. There, they finished up Earth Day in the school auditorium. In the cool inside, they learned about where their water comes from and the measures it takes to get it from "Tank Mountain" to their sinks and showers at home.

"That was fun," said one small boy to his buddies as they headed out the door. "I hope they do Earth Day again someday." His friends nodded in agreement.