Veterans, local teenagers, volunteers and staff from Canopy, a local urban forestry non-profit, joined to celebrate Veterans Day in a way that would last for decades.
"This is really great," said Gilbert Naval, a Veteran going through Menlo Park's Homeless Veterans Rehabilitation Program (HVRP). "It's not only fun, but it's a way that I can give something to the Veterans following me. It's Veterans giving to Veterans. What better way to spend Veterans Day?"
The 8-10 foot trees - valley oak, red oak, red maple, crab apple, and saucer magnolia - were planted around Building 347, the homeless rehabilitation center that serves 100 Veterans. Canopy program director and arborist Michael Hawkins said, "Healthy trees make for a healthy community."
Marine Corps Veteran James Cook, a member of the Canopy board of directors, spoke of Canopy's mission to connect the community to its urban canopy and how our relationship to trees reflects our relationships to each other. He also introduced students from Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, trained by Canopy in all areas of tree planting and stewardship, who had volunteered on their holiday to work with the Veterans. "Without these trees, the students in our program would never meet these Veterans or even see this hospital property, but now everybody here owns a little bit of the future."
Not to be left behind because of his wheelchair, Army Veteran Kim Yee grabbed a pick and went to work digging holes and freeing up bound tree roots. Working with a couple other Veterans and volunteers, he worked up a full sweat planting two of the trees.
"I'm loving this," he said. "I used to plant trees -- there's something about planting and watching something grow that heals the spirit."