Dozens of arborists dedicated their own time Wednesday to give back to our veterans in a labor of love.
“We’re able to do a phenomenal amount of work today,” said site leader, Matt Bertalme. “We’re probably doing about 75 trees today and grinding stumps, so normally that would be months’ worth of work.”
Eighty-five arborists armed with chainsaws and heavy machinery tackled overgrown trees at the State Veterans Cemetery in Middletown as part of an event called Saluting Branches.
“Originally this site had a very aggressive plantings game back in the 1970s,” Bertalme said. “They planted way too many trees too close together. Some are even invasive species by today’s standards. So with that overgrowth, you can’t even appreciate or see a lot of tombstones in the area.”
Saluting Branches is a nationwide event. Cleanup is happening at veteran’s cemeteries across the country.
State Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Thomas Saadi said their work here this year and last is worth at least at $200,000.
“This is part of an overall project in our cemetery to make this a more welcoming place for those who are coming to pay their final respects when we inter our veterans, and to come back and pay our respects year after year to those that are buried in these hallowed grounds,” he said.
“It’s awesome,” Bertalme said. “I didn’t serve in the military but it’s one of those things that I’ve always kind of regret. I just always want to get back to the men and women who have given so much.”