Planting my first tree on Arbor Day

  • Published
  • By Chris Willis
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Arbor Day is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees, but that holiday didn't mean much to me until I participated this year. 

As a photographer, my job has been documenting the local and base leadership putting a shovel of dirt into an already planted tree.  I now have a greater understanding of the holiday after planting my first tree.

This year I was tasked to cover the planting of 11 trees in front of the education center.  The coordinator asked if I knew anyone who would like to volunteer.  I asked my shop thinking that nobody would really want to, but was surprised when an NCO stepped up. 

Like always, I checked my gear and showed up to the location 15 minutes early.  At first I thought I was at the wrong location, but then noticed a stack of trees. Usually the trees were a few feet tall, small enough for one person to plant.  These trees were clearly different.

I laughed at the NCO  who volunteered, joking that I tricked him into thinking this was only going to be a quick planting not lasting more than 20 minutes.

Eventually, people started to show up ranging in rank and age.  They were motivated to work even though they were clearly under manned.  I took a couple of pictures but then found myself just watching the group work. 

I first thought about leaving because everyone out there was wearing uniforms or jeans, and here I am in my outfit one would wear to a business meeting.  I decided to stay and help.

The day was hot and sunny with a breeze lasting long enough to cool the sweat on my face.  Sure it was hard work, but it didn't feel that way.  I was sweating through my button-up shirt and getting dirt all over my shiny black shoes.  The sun was beating down on us but everyone kept working, we had a mission to complete.

Every member of the team was a leader out there. Whoever had a better way to move these huge trees, the group followed.   With great teamwork, we were able to finish hours earlier than planned.

As we put the final tree in the ground the team gathered to take pictures.  To me it was great accomplishment, I felt like I did something that will last decades.  One day, I will be able to show my kids and even my grandkids and say "these are the trees I planted years ago."