“I first learned about volunteering to trim trees in our national cemeteries from Rainbow Treecare, the company that founded the Saluting Branches organization,” said Robert Rowlette, Russellville vegetation management operations coordinator. Rowlette thought participating in the nonprofit’s day of service would be a great way for Entergy Arkansas to honor veterans and to give back to the communities where we live and work.
Saluting Branches designates Sept. 21 as a day for tree care experts to volunteer their time to make the final resting place of veterans a safe and beautiful environment. This was the first time that Entergy Arkansas crews participated in a national effort that donates an estimated 8,000 hours of tree care services to national cemeteries in the U.S., according to the nonprofit’s website.
“We hope to make this an annual project,” said Christy Wright, who supervises the Arkansas vegetation team. She said she appreciated Rowlette’s initiative to coordinate Entergy’s involvement.
On the morning the team gathered at the Little Rock National Cemetery, Wright visited with her direct reports as well as Entergy’s contract employees.
“I was happy we had such a positive presence from across our territory and I was certainly pleased three of our contractors also made the choice to join the effort,” said Wright.
ABC Tree Professionals, Asplundh and West Tree Service dispatched bucket trucks and crews from Russellville, Batesville and Little Rock.
Crews discussed work plans and set out safety cones along the cemetery’s entrance where they trimmed red oak trees, while one Asplundh climbing crew took extra safety protocols to remove dead wood from a majestic post oak providing shade to scores of tombstones.
“We got word they needed a 70-foot bucket so we brought our team from Russellville,” said Matt West, co-owner of West Tree Service, who was also on hand to observe his employees in action.
“It’s nice to see all kinds of tree-trimming companies, both companies like West that go through a bidding process for utility line clearance jobs, as well as small businesses that serve private homeowners and businesses take part in this effort to honor the final resting place for the men and women who honorably served in our Armed Forces,” said West.
Adam Zomant, a veteran himself, manages northern operations out of the Searcy office. “Today I’m a dead wood dragger,” he joked as he was stacking debris into a pile. On a more serious note, Zomant added: “I was honored to serve those who have sacrificed so much and grateful for the opportunity.”
Jeremy Matthews, who manages tree-trimming operations out of the Baseline service center for the central region, spoke on behalf of all of his colleagues: “Anytime we can do something a little different and use our professional expertise is a great way for us as team to give back.”
Representing Entergy in addition to Rowlette, Zomant and Matthews were operations coordinators John Everitt from Batesville and Pine Bluff’s Britt Jones. Forester Jeremy Richard from ACRT, one of the sponsoring companies for Saluting Branches, also volunteered his time.
Cemetery director Howard Porter, Jr. says Arkansas has five cemeteries under the care of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and that this is the first time Saluting Branches has included the Little Rock National Cemetery.
“We are grateful these men and women have come out here today to volunteer to work hard and honor our veterans,” Porter said.
The Saluting Branches day of service for 2016 was held at 34 national cemeteries across the U.S. For more information about this event, go to www.salutingbranches.org.