US Troop Holds First Arbor Day in Iraq

Lincoln, Nebraska, April 11, 2005--Arbor Day 2005 took root in an unaccustomed corner of the world—Kirkuk, Iraq—thanks to David Woodall, assistant logistics chief in the 116th Engineer Battalion, Idaho Army National Guard, serving in Kirkuk.

Through the efforts of Woodall, a habitat biologist from Moscow, Idaho, trees native to the region are being planted in this northeastern Iraqi city.

"I never miss an Arbor Day and the opportunity to plant several trees around my own house," Woodall said. "I had already taken upon myself to clean up the work area surroundings by cutting down the dead trees and trimming those that needed pruning. So when I had the opportunity over here to get a hold of these trees, and to plant new trees and flowers, I just jumped on it."

He and his planting companions got the trees from a group of Iraqi contractors they saw planting trees in the city, and Woodall asked if he could have six of the trees to plant near their headquarters.

Woodall says that the residents of Kirkuk appreciate their efforts and the tree planting spirit behind it. "Our Iraqi interpreters are very receptive and enthusiastic about all of our work to help rebuild Iraq," he said. "The Iraqi people in general love the colors and shade those flowers and trees can provide. The aesthetics that simple things like these provide make life better here and help build trust and long-lasting relationships between Iraqis and Americans."

Back in the United States, National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April, with Arbor Day 2005 falling on April 29. But for Woodall and his tree-planting companions in Kirkuk, Arbor Day just came a little early. And the spirit of cooperation and hope brought about by their efforts is justification enough for this early celebration, he says.

"I thought by cutting down some of the dead trees, cutting the grass, and planting some flowers and new trees it would be a great way to celebrate what may be the first annual Arbor Day for Iraq," Woodall said. "It will definitely be a work in progress, and hopefully others will continue our work."

More information on Arbor Day and ways to celebrate it can be found at the website of The National Arbor Day Foundation,