ELWOOD – Volunteer arborists returned to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery on Wednesday, cutting, chipping and planting with donated labor, equipment and trees in a national campaign to help veterans cemeteries.
"There are a lot of enthusiastic horticulturalists and tree workers here today," said Joliet City Arborist Jim Teiber, who was team leader for the volunteer effort in Elwood.
More than 60 volunteers came, which Teiber termed "a great turnout."
They were from 10 different companies and organizations that sent help in what is called "Saluting Branches." Nationwide, volunteers were at 47 veterans cemeteries.
It was the first year of participation for NJ Ryan Tree & Landscape out of DeKalb, which sent its entire work crew and a dozen pieces of equipment to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.
"This is all we're doing today," said Joseph Ryan, one of the family owners of the company. "I want to keep our guys out here all day."
The Ryan crews were clearing out dead trees from a section of the cemetery's Memorial Walk. Volunteers for three straight years have been removing dead trees and invasive brush from the cemetery section each year.
"I want to button up this area over here," Ryan said. "I want to make it 100 percent."
He planned to return next week with autumn blaze maples and white oaks to plant along Memorial Walk.
Other crews were planting black eyed susans and purple coneflowers – perennials that in future years will add a display of yellow and purple – near the cemetery entrance.
Stump's Tree Care from Joliet turned out for a third consecutive year for the effort.
Supervisor Jeff Marrs from Stump's said he does it for the veterans buried at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.
"I have friends and relatives who are buried here. It's a way to give back," Marrs said.
The Lutheran Early Response Team, a church organization that sends help to disaster scenes, brought 15 people to the cemetery, many of them with experience clearing brush and fallen trees, said Clay Arnold with the group.
"We have chainsaw people. We have draggers," Arnold said. "When the chain saw people cut the trees down, the draggers drag them out."
Other companies and organizations with volunteers at the cemetery were: Cantigny VFW Post 367 in Joliet, Morton Arboretum, Wheaton Nurseries, Green Scene, Acres Group and Kramer Tree Service.
Other companies donated trees or funds for plants.They included: The Fields, Green Glen Nursery, Arbor Tek Services and Chicagoland Wholesale Mulch. Milano Bakery provided food.