By JAMES EIK
First there was the Liberty Tree near Boston, Mass., a rallying point for patriots in the Revolutionary War. Now, an oak tree planted at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake will commemorate all patriots.
Around 60 people were in attendance for the Monday, July 2 ceremony, next to the administration office at the cemetery. The tree provides a permanent memorial to those who served in the military during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The ceremony is likely the only one to take place in Washington state for Revolutionary War soldiers, according to a press release.
Beth Ann Daigre, a member of the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter, said the current military honors performed at funerals began in 1920. To help remember and honor those who weren't able to receive them.
“That means our patriots never received military honors,” she said.
Daigre and other group members, as well as members of the Sons of the American Revolution, sought permission from the Army to dedicate the tree to those who served prior to 1920. But, it's meant to be there for patriots past, present and future.
“I think it takes it back to the very beginning when our country started,” she said. “We recognized here, in our little corner of the world, what our patriots did to build the United States of America. So we're carrying it on.”
Before the Veterans Cemetery was built, Daigre traveled to Washington, D.C. several times each year as a surviving spouse of a Navy officer. She met a woman from the Air Force Arlington Ladies group, who planted the idea of having a tree at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery.
Interim cemetery director Travis Potter said the tree is the result of hard work and dedication from the groups.
“We're very glad to have it here,” Potter said.
Former cemetery director Rich Cesler was a strong proponent of the idea, advocating for a large tree on the grounds. The cost of a large tree, however, was beyond what the groups could afford. In the end, fundraising and donations contributed to the $500 oak tree, which will grow into a healthy memorial in time.
“(Cesler) was passionate about having a patriot tree,” she said.
For Daigre and others in the group, much of the work was personal. Discovering connections to patriots in the Revolutionary War helped strengthen their ties to the project.
“This was a thing of the heart for me,” Daigre said. “The Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution are so in love with the things that they do. I'm just amazed the longer I'm a member of this group.”
A story was told at the dedication about a patriot tree planted on the East Coast, which was then cut down. Another tree was planted in its place, and then was cut down.
“Every time one was destroyed by either man or nature, it gets replaced,” Daigre said regarding the story.
Aside from condolence cards handed out at funerals, the tree is just one more way to remember those who served.
“For me this was a splendiferous way to acknowledge my ancestors and what they did,” Daigre said.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.