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New Trees Honor Fallen Service Members

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2004 – Hundreds of newly planted trees are blooming along a six-mile highway median strip that links downtown Albany, Ga., to its newer suburbs to the northwest.

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Nearly 700 trees and shrubs along a six-mile highway median strip in Albany, Ga., honor service members who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Courtesy photo by Scott Hagan

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More than 660 trees and shrubs live oaks, magnolias and crepe myrtles among them were planted this spring by members of First Union Methodist Church and its community to honor service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice during the war on terror.

Scott Hagan, the church's associate minister for missions, said the "Trees of Courage" program was conceived to help grieving families heal and let them know that their losses are recognized and appreciated. But just as importantly, he said, it offers a continual reminder to community members of the importance of national defense, in both peacetime and war.

Home of Marine Corps Logistics Base, Albany, the community has a long and close relationship with the U.S. military. As an extension of this relationship, the tree-planting effort provides a lasting tribute to those killed in the line of duty in America's defense, Hagan said.

The trees, which Hagan said are now just beginning to stretch their branches and pop into full bloom, offer a constant reminder of their service and source of inspiration to those who pass them along Westover Boulevard. "I've driven by and even thought of a couple of sermons," he said.

Hagan said he's not yet aware of any families of fallen service members who have ventured along the six-mile stretch. But he's hopeful that when they do, they'll see the message the trees convey: where once stood a barren median strip, now blooms a beautiful grove that honors those lost.

"We are confident that the lives of individuals who see the plantings in the coming decades will be positively impacted by the reminder of the sacrifice of your loved one and others," church members wrote in a letter telling families who have lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan of the project.

"As residents and visitors to Albany ride down Westover Boulevard, this living memorial will continue to remind us that our freedom is precious and comes at a very high price."

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Marine Corps Logistics Base, Albany, Ga.

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