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Trees take backseat to local veterans at Arbor Day event

Monday, May 9, 2011

(Photo)
Highlighting the Greencastle Arbor Day celebration Saturday was the presentation of a Tree City USA flag by Pam Loucks, Indiana Urban Forestry coordinator (above, right) to Tree Board members (from left) Jim Gammon, Judy George, Brad Phillips and Mayor Sue Murray. One of the trees to be planted later in honor of a veteran, in this case John Lee Welker, is surrounded by his grandchildren (from left in right photo) Kalyn Foxx, 6, Kylie Flint, 5, and Rylan Foxx, 8. Meanwhile, the oldest veteran in attendance at 93, Helen Hurst (below, left) meets the guest speaker, retired Brig. Gen. Ray Phillips as City Council member Jinsie Bingham looks on after the ceremony.
Drizzle and a dreary weather forecast helped turn Greencastle's Arbor Day celebration into a combination Memorial Day/Veterans Day observance Saturday. And it couldn't have been more appropriate.

The forecast forced the ceremony to move from the western section of Veterans Memorial Highway to inside City Hall but it couldn't dampen the spirits of some 75 people there to honor family, friends and neighbors who serve or have served in the U.S. armed services.

"I attend a number of these ceremonies every year around the state of Indiana," offered guest speaker Pam Loucks, the Indiana Community and Urban Forestry coordinator, "and the most special one I attend is your celebration here in Greencastle because it also honors our veterans."

From members of the local National Guard (who provided the color guard for the ceremony) to 93-year-old audience member Helen Hurst (who served in North Africa during World War II), the room was dominated by a veteran presence.

That and the timing of the ceremony at the end of a week of national military and security significance was not lost on keynote speaker Ray Phillips, a retired brigadier general.

He spoke of Indiana residents' disproportionate dedication to duty, a fact that dates back to the Civil War. More than 1.2 million Americans have been killed in conflict since then, which computes to two percent per state, Phillips said. Indiana's share of that sacrifice, however, has been 4.3 percent.

Calling those Hoosiers "true patriots," Phillips said their involvement is due to "freedom being a very personal matter" to Indiana residents.

"And this week has emphasized that again in bringing to justice one of America's most monstrous enemies, Osama bin Laden," Phillips said, his words choked with so much emotion he was forced to pause his remarks briefly.

"We got him!" Phillips said as he resumed his remarks by thumping the podium.

He also commended local organizers of the Arbor Day veterans' tribute, taking time to note the flags adorning Veterans.

"The highway looked really great as I drove in this morning," Phillips said. "In Greencastle, you have a special community tradition started by some true patriots."

Arbor Day, of course, is a day dedicated to educating the public on the importance of planting and caring for trees.

During the ceremony, the City of Greencastle received its 12th designation as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation and was awarded a Growth Award for the second straight year because of its environmental involvement and increased levels of tree care.

While there was no actual tree planting done Saturday, the event took time to note 13 local Veterans remembered with trees planted along the highway in their honor this year.

They are: Joseph W. Cromwell, U.S. Army; Thomas P. Schmalix, U.S. Navy; Dennis Buis, U.S. Army Air Corps; Floyd Sims, U.S. Army; Eric Dewayne Gaston, USAF; Robert D. Cook, U.S. Navy; Ray M. Reed, U.S. Army; John Lee Welker, U.S. Army; and Howard J. Earl, U.S. Army; along with four members of the Fogle family, Jacob Fogle and Jacob W. Fogle, both of the U.S. Army, Joseph D. Fogle, U.S. Navy, and Joseph Fogle II, USAF.

"They're going to call that 'Fogle Forest' out there along the highway," Brig. Gen. Phillips quipped.

Anyone wishing to donate a veteran's tree for next year's ceremony may contact the Greencastle Department of Public Works or the Putnam County Foundation.


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Now I lay me down to sleep, one less terrorist this world does keep. With all my heart I give my thanks, to those in uniform regardless of ranks. You serve our country and serve it well, with humble hearts your stories tell. So as I rest my weary eyes, while freedom rings our flag still flies. You... give your all, do what you must...with God we live and God we trust.

-- Posted by Focus on Mon, May 9, 2011, at 10:37 AM


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