Saluting Branches volunteers keep military cemetery landscapes healthy

People usually dress formally, usually in black, to visit the Florida National Cemetery in Sumter County.

But this week, more than 60 people came wearing work clothes, ready to improve the landscape for years to come.

The national event called Saluting Branches draws thousands of volunteers who perform tree-trimming work at 67 national cemeteries across the country.

“It is a huge help,” commented Gerard Lyons, spokesman for the cemetery. “We love to have our partners in the community come and show their appreciation for this nation and the warriors and their families.”

The volunteers, mostly arborists, come from as far away as Jacksonville to spend the day working with heavy equipment and using chain saws. They pruned, cut limbs, diagnosed and treated various tree health problems.

“It is the right thing to do,” said Tim Murray, who owns Murray’s Tree Service in St. Petersburg. “I feel good about it. So does everybody else around here.”

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“It is just making this place a more beautiful place,” said Brain Gould, who owns Tree Care Technologies in Orlando.

Since its inception five years ago, volunteers at Saluting Branches have donated more than $11 million in time and services to improve military cemeteries.