As the sun set on another late September day, more than 4,000 volunteers and participants completed the ninth-annual Saluting Branches Day of Service. With nearly $4 million in services contributed across a staggering 100 locations spanning 49 states, Puerto Rico and even extending into Mexico, Saluting Branches’ 2023 event once again proved that the power of unity, service and respect knows no bounds.
A growing legacy
Saluting Branches, a non-profit organization founded in 2015 by a group of arborists in Minnesota, has come a long way since its inception. It began as a local civic project to honor and assist veterans by providing tree care services at national cemeteries and other veteran properties. It has blossomed into a nationwide movement dedicated to recognizing and honoring veterans through the care of trees on veterans’ final resting grounds.
The green-industry professionals who converged for this annual event have watched it evolve year after year, with each iteration surpassing the last in scale and impact. What draws volunteers together is a shared belief in paying tribute to those who served their country.
Making a difference
Saluting Branches: Arborists United for Veteran Remembrance is not just another event; it’s a day of service that makes a tangible difference in the lives of veterans and their families. Millions of Americans pay their respects yearly at national and state veterans’ cemeteries and properties. Saluting Branches brings together tree and landscape experts to improve the beauty and safety of the trees located at these hallowed sites.
On this one day, tree care professionals volunteer their services, including pruning, tree and stump removals, tree-health evaluations, insect and disease treatments and tree mapping. It’s an opportunity to give back to those who have given so much for our freedom.
Volunteers at the core
At the core of Saluting Branches’ success are the volunteers who dedicate their time and effort to make this event possible. Many are arborists and industry professionals, but they come from all walks of life. Whether pruning existing trees, planting new ones or cleaning up debris, they worked tirelessly to ensure these sacred grounds remain safe and beautiful for all who visit. Their actions speak volumes about the values of honor and service.
The glue of success: Site leaders
Another vital element of Saluting Branches’ achievements is the dedication of its site leaders. These individuals serve as the linchpins, coordinating efforts on the ground and ensuring each location runs smoothly. They liaise between government agencies and industry volunteers, working diligently in the months leading up to the event to ensure everything goes off.
The role of site leaders is often challenging, as they coordinate volunteers from various backgrounds and navigate logistical complexities in cemeteries that are actively conducting internments. Saluting Branches owes much of its efficiency and effectiveness to the dedication of these site leaders.
The backbone of support: Sponsors
While volunteers and site leaders provide the heart and soul of Saluting Branches, the organization needs the generous support of its sponsors to accomplish its mission. These sponsors, from local businesses to national corporations, provide the financial and logistical support necessary to make the Day of Service a reality.
A heartfelt thank you to our Benefactor sponsor, Vermeer, and Champion sponsor, Rainbow Treecare. Gratitude also goes to our Partner sponsors: Bandit Industries, Bartlett Tree Experts, The Davey Tree Expert Company, Husqvarna, Lewis Tree, Monster Tree Service, Morbark and Stanley Tree. We also extend our gratitude to In-Kind sponsors: Arborwear, ACRT, International Society of Arboriculture, Utility Arborist Association and the Tree Care Industry Association, and to our Associate sponsors, PennLine and Wright Tree Service.
Their contributions are invaluable, and they play a crucial role in ensuring that the event can continue growing and reaching even more locations nationwide.
It’s also important to note that Saluting Branches is not just about financial support. Many individuals and organizations have contributed in various ways, from equipment and tools to machines, food, supplies and more. Moreover, countless efforts have been made to garner news coverage, raising awareness about this remarkable initiative.
The free T-shirt for participants could only be done with design contributions from across our network. This year, it was a collaboration with our board of directors, committee members, extended family and the designers at Arborwear to bring home the final design. Arborwear has been instrumental in making this keepsake meaningful each year by supporting us both with in-kind donations and through their team’s efforts.
As organizers reflect on the Saluting Branches 9th Annual Day of Service, they are already looking forward to the event’s 10th anniversary in 2024. This milestone promises to be bigger and better than ever before, with new enhancements and opportunities for volunteers and supporters to make it the most impactful year yet.
The 10th Annual Day of Service will be a moment to reflect on how far the organization has come and how many lives it has touched along the way. It’s also a time to look forward with optimism as Saluting Branches sets its sights on even more significant achievements in the future.
A call to action
As we wrap up this year’s event and eagerly anticipate the 10th Annual Day of Service, there’s a call to action for all those who believe in the mission of Saluting Branches. Whether you’re an arborist, an industry professional, a volunteer, a sponsor or simply someone who cares deeply about honoring veterans, there’s a role for you to play.
Consider becoming a volunteer, lending your skills and time to the cause. Reach out to your community and spread the word about Saluting Branches, so that more people can join this meaningful endeavor. If your organization is in a position to sponsor or support the event, your contributions will be invaluable in ensuring its continued success.
The mission of Saluting Branches is not exclusive to arborists and industry professionals. It’s a call to action for anyone who wishes to make a difference. There are volunteer, donor and partner opportunities available for both industry and nonindustry supporters.
With support from industry leaders, Saluting Branches has cared for thousands of trees at more than 100 United States Department of Veterans Affairs veterans’ cemeteries, homes and hospitals across North America. To get a jump start on participating in the 2024 Saluting Branches, register now at salutingbranches.org.
Brian Bruce is president of Saluting Branches and regional sales manager in Temecula, California, for Vermeer Mountain West, a TCIA corporate member company based in Salt Lake City, Utah.