When most people visit cemeteries their focus typically isn’t up in the trees, but that’s where Lakewood’s arborists are looking as part of an effort to pay tribute to veterans and their families by applying their unique skills to national cemeteries.

Four Lakewood arborists joined the Saluting Branches: Arborists United for Veteran Remembrance annual event to beautify national cemeteries with their skills. More than 100 volunteers representing five cities, 18 companies and five subcontractors converged on Fort Logan National Cemetery on Sept. 20 to trim trees, remove distressed ones and plant new trees. Nine ash trees were also given preventative treatment for the emerald ash borer, an insect from Asia that can kill ash trees.

“This was a day of hard work filled with a lot of gratification,” said Lakewood Forestry Supervisor John Dzialo, who expressed pride in his staff’s community dedication and work ethic. The event “left them feeling fulfilled by their accomplishments in giving back to those that gave so much.”

The work was done to honor our nation’s veterans by making their final resting places in the national cemeteries not only more beautiful, but safer for family members and others to visit their fallen soldiers. The impact at Fort Logan was clear because the volunteers completed a year’s worth of work in a single day.

Park Maintenance Specialists TJ Hogle and Clay Thompson, Forestry Technician Luke Killoran and Urban Parks Seasonable Labor Brian Holmes offered to join the event when Dzialo learned about it and discussed it with his staff. “These four individuals came forward and eagerly volunteered to participate in the event,” Dzialo said.

The City’s contingent brought both bucket and chipper trucks to ensure that work could be done effectively and safely. Safety is “the No. 1 priority as this is a high-risk industry,” Dzialo noted. “We use the most up-to-date equipment to assure both aerial and ground workers are safe.”

Nationally, the nonprofit Saluting Branches brought over 2,200 volunteers together at 45 national cemeteries. An estimated 17,600 total hours and more than $2.2 million dollars in services were donated, making Sept. 20 the largest single-day volunteer donation in national cemetery history.