At 4:00 AM, on April 22nd, I woke up knowing that we were going to make a difference that day, knowing that our PLANET Day of Service was going to be the biggest and best ever. I could feel the excitement build as our convoy of volunteers pulled into the main entrance of the Ft. Sill National Cemetery in Elgin, Oklahoma.
I was so pleased to see that the John Deere Landscapes volunteers were early and ready to unload trees that they had donated, even the driver was full of excitement about being a part of this event. He told me a story about his father, who lost his life serving our country and he appreciated the fact that our volunteers were ready to give back to our military’s resting place.
We were instantly greeted by Marty Talley, the Maintenance Supervisor for the Ft. Sill National Cemetery, and he thanked us for coming, by saying that “the staff at the Ft. Sill National Cemetery were all Veterans and that they appreciated all of us for thinking of them and their families on this Day of Service”. He then thanked us again for updating the main entrance and restoring the trees that were damaged in a previous ice storm. “It’s important for every one of our service men and women to know that there are people who want to give back to our fallen soldiers and their families who come to visit their final resting place. No one has ever offered to do anything like this for us. I was totally caught off guard when Matt Doerr, (President of Turf Appeal), approached us about donating a landscape makeover for our main entrance and offered to restore trees that had been damaged by an ice storm.”
Seventeen volunteers gathered at 9:00 AM for the Opening Ceremonies. Matt Doerr opened with a moment of silence for those fallen soldiers and their families. Matt then thanked the Ft. Sill Cemetery Administration for allowing us to volunteer our time to improve the environment at the cemetery.
At this point, Matt Doerr turned over the Ceremonies to William Rodes (Director of Ft. Gibson and Ft. Sill National Cemeteries), and Military Veterans, Gary Secor and Marty Talley, who presented Matt Doerr, with a plaque with a fallen heroes patch, inscripted with “This patch is in honor of those who have lost their lives servicing our country and protecting our freedom.” Marty Talley a Veteran of the military and Director of the Ft. Sill National Cemetery, then stated “We dedicate this plaque to Turf Appeal and all the volunteers here today.” All volunteers were thanked again by the Ft. Sill Administration and staff, and the Vietnam Veterans of America. Opening Ceremonies were closed and our Day of Service began.
Lunch was donated by vendors in the Lawton Community, cooked by Gary Secor and opened by Pat Powell, the President of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 751. Thank you so much for the wonderful lunch, from all the volunteers, it was greatly appreciated.
After lunch, as the volunteers continued their task, they would stop to greet the many individuals coming to visit the cemetery, and as they talked and thanked us, we in turn thanked them for their sacrifices they had made. All this kept our spirits high for the rest of the day.
Our day ended when Matt Doerr and Daryl Baxter discussed the main entrance landscape makeover, the tree restoration process, and the need for continual maintenance for the trees over the next few years that he would take ownership of.
We want to recognize and thank the following:
Balfour Beatty Communities: Patti Osburn, (Communities Manager) lead the flower installation crew, along with Danielle Beaver and her husband Mark, planting color spots in different areas inside the cemetery. Ronnie Pullins, Elizabeth Pearl, and her husband John, assisted the crew with Full Circle Tree Care. They volunteered their time away from Tinker AFB, where they work serving all of the on base residents. Balfour Beatty Communities currently serves military base residents at over 50 Army, Navy and Air Force Bases across the country and we want to thank them for donating their time, beautiful flowers and shrubs.
Full Circle Tree Care: Daryl Baxter, (Certified Arborist, President of OAA, and owner of Full Circle Tree Care) and Darren Allen, who were a huge help. Their mission was to restore some large trees that had been badly damaged, and they amazed the other volunteers, as they safely climbed and swuing from tree to tree. Ronnie Pullins said “It’s truly amazing to watch a professional tree climber in action.”
Vietnam Veterans of America: Pat Powell, President of Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 751 and their donation of flowers.
John Deere Landscapes: Donation of Trees
Turf Appeal volunteers: Matt Doerr (President of Turf Appeal), Frank Flemmons (Vice President of Turf Appeal), Jose Vargas, Juan Vargas, Guillerimo Munoz, Jose Dominguez, Mario Aquilar, Roberto Barron, and Frankie Tassone, started demolition and landscape installation at the main entrance.
Pictures were taken with the Ft. Sill Administration, Vietnam Veterans of America, and all volunteers. Special thanks were given from Matt Doerr to PLANET and the over 3000 volunteers donating their time on this “Day of Service” around the country, to the Project Evergreen “Green Care for Troops”, and the volunteers who service deployed military family lawns while they are serving our country, to the Ft. Sill National Cemetery Administration and Staff, to the Vietnam Veterans of America, to Balfour Beatty Communities, to Full Circle Tree Care, and to John Deere Landscapes.