Seven essential Fort McCoy staff members, all practicing social distancing and other protective measures, attended the 2020 Arbor Day observance April 24 at Fort McCoy.For the ceremony held in front of McCoy’s Community Center, a single maple tree was planted to represent the importance of the day. Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Hui Chae Kim read the Arbor Day proclamation to recognize Fort McCoy’s commitment to preserving forest lands and more.“The Department of the Army is the steward of the land and the natural resources at Fort McCoy, which are being held in trust for the American people,” Kim said in the proclamation. “Trees are one of the most important natural resources contained on Fort McCoy, either singularly, in groups, or forests.“These trees benefit Fort McCoy by providing quality training, watershed protection, wood products, food and shelter for wildlife, outdoor recreation opportunities, clean air, noise buffers, and beautification,” Kim said. “Fort McCoy has been designated as a Tree City USA, and Arbor Day is a time of national observance for the recognition of the importance of trees to all locations.”The observance was the 32nd of its kind held on the installation.“The post earned its 31st Tree City USA award from the National Arbor Day Foundation (NADF) during the celebration,” said new Fort McCoy Forester Charles Mentzel with the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch.During regular Arbor Day observances, installation personnel and children from the post Child Development Center usually gather together to plant tree seedlings, Mentzel said. Longtime Fort McCoy Forester James Kerkman, who retired April 30, led the observance.“This was a great way to observe what I have been a part of at this installation for more than three decades,” Kerkman said to those in attendance.According to, the origins of Arbor Day date back to the early 1870s in Nebraska City, Neb. A journalist by the name of Julius Sterling Morton moved to the state with his wife, Caroline, in 1854.The couple purchased 160 acres in Nebraska City and planted a wide variety of trees and shrubs in what was a primarily a flat stretch of desolate plain.Morton later became editor of the state’s first newspaper, Nebraska City News, which became a platform for Morton to spread his knowledge of trees and to stress their ecological importance within Nebraska.On Jan. 7, 1872, Morton proposed a day that would encourage all Nebraskans to plant trees in their community.An agriculture board agreed, and Arbor Day was born. The first Arbor Day was held April 10, 1872.The tradition spread quickly. Within 20 years, Arbor Day had reached a large swath of the nation and was celebrated in every state except for Delaware.It wasn’t until 1970, however, that Arbor Day became recognized nationwide, thanks to President Richard Nixon. This move was in line with other environmentally friendly actions taken by Nixon in the 1970s, including passing the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act.Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin.The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services each year since 1984.Learn more about Fort McCoy online at, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.”