Tree service companies across the country donated their resources and time to assist the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with an overgrown problem at veterans cemeteries.
The initiative is called Saluting Branches.
On Wednesday, September 23, 2015, 900 volunteers, spanning across 20 states, targeted 23 cemeteries, including the Rock Island National Cemetery. Charles Goodrich, the site leader, said this first-time event will help national cemeteries "get caught up on work that otherwise would not be done due to funding."
"We really need to get this done sometime; we're doing it now," Goodrich said.
The usually quiet cemetery rang with the loud buzzing of chainsaws. Some arborists climbed trees, others were lifted 20 feet in the air by their cherry picker. Volunteer Mike Coers of Hillsdale said he jumped at the chance to help.
"I figured it was a good excuse to come out and visit the grandparents," Coers said, who explained his grandparents were buried at the cemetery.
"There's a lot of trees that could use a lot of work, a lot of trees that need to come down. There's a lot of hazardous stuff out here," Coers said, who was covered in wood chips from a morning of chainsawing.
Some of the trees are dying, others have limbs that are vulnerable to snapping, Coers said.
"Nobody wants to come out here and see their great grandpa's headstone knocked over because there's a dead tree next to it," Coers added.
The cemetery's grounds manager told News 8 there's always work that needs to be done at the cemetery, and he's grateful for the extra help.
"It means a lot," said Matt Tomes, the grounds manager. "It's nice to see people wanting to give back to the veterans. These guys did a lot for their country and seeing people give back just makes you feel good."