By Bob McElroy
USAG Pōhakuloa Public Affairs
PŌHAKULOA TRAINING AREA — About 50 Marines and Sailors planted more than 400 native Hawaiian trees and plants at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery on Jan. 19 as part of a community service day.
The Marines and Sailors, all volunteers, came from units that trained here in January. Marines routinely include a community service project in their training schedule when they train at Pōhakuloa.
The reforestation of the hill overlooking the cemetery began in 2005 as a joint effort of the University of Hawaii, veterans groups, schools, community organizations and active duty military and civilian volunteers from PTA. To date volunteers have planted more than 10,000 Native plants and trees on the hillside.
Richard Stevens, the reforestation project coordinator for the cemetery, began the day with remarks to the assembled Marines, Sailors, Veterans and civilian volunteers.
“Today you will help us to restore the Hawaiian Dryland Forest that used to stretch along the coast,” Stevens said. “We want to paint a green swath across the hill.”
Stevens said that the volunteers should first weed the area, plants their plants and mulch them with the weeds they pulled.
“Free the plants and set them loose, they’ll be happy,” Stevens smiled.
Stevens also suggested the volunteers dedicate the trees they planted to someone close to them.
After Stevens’ remarks, the volunteers carried plants up the steep hill, looking for good spots for them.
The Marines pulled weeds and dry grass, dug holes and gently placed their plants in the ground near the irrigation hoses that lace the hillside and water the plants.
One of the volunteers, U.S. Navy Chaplain’s Assistant Dakotah Williams said he volunteered for the project to honor his grandfather Duane Roby, a World War II Veteran.
“This is a great project,” Williams said. “My grandfather is a botanist and this is my way to carry out something he loves to do.”
After all the plants were in the ground the Marines, Sailors and other volunteers shared lunch and got to know each other a bit.