To most people, digging up dirt and spreading mulch may not sound like a good time. However, that’s exactly what over 30 volunteers of all ages at RAF Mildenhall UK Air Force Base did in early September when they came together to create a remembrance garden for armed services veterans. And they thoroughly enjoyed doing it.
The project began as an idea to create a small community space in the Heritage Park near the RAF Mildenhall post office with a seating area, picnic table, rubbish bin, landscaping feature, and plaque to honor the many veterans who visit the RAF Mildenhall base and want to spend time out of doors.
Earlier this summer, President Barack Obama sent out a call to all Americans urging them to engage in their communities – the United We Serve initiative. The American Red Cross Station at RAF Mildenhall answered the call by pulling together a series of four community-based, volunteer-led projects, one of which was the Veteran’s Remembrance Garden.
Servicemen and women and their families volunteered to gather donations for supplies, clear the area, dig flowerbeds, arrange plants and flowers, install a garden fence and bring in seating to complete the space. Remembrance and respect for the Armed Forces veterans was sensed throughout the project and especially at the close of the project with a plaque dedication service. “I felt obligated to give something back to the veterans,” said Senior Airman Daniel Porter of the 100 MXS Fuel Systems, who prepared the grounds for the garden beds. “They gave so much for our country, so it’s the least I could do.”
Tech Sergeant Carrie Frederickson, of the 48th Civil Engineering Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, planted flowers in the garden with her daughters. “I knew it was a great opportunity to get my little girls involved with a volunteer project that they would have fun and know they were giving back to the community at the same time,” said Sergeant Frederickson. “It makes me feel good knowing I am giving back to the community. I loved planting the garden because my girls enjoyed themselves and made great friends, too.”
The 488th Intel Squadron’s Superintendent of Standardization and Evaluations Senior Master Sergeant Delane Branden brought along her sons, Taylor and Tristan, to help. “They are Boys Scouts, and were actually eager to help out with the project,” said Sergeant Branden. “It gave them a chance to practice some of the principles of what is taught through the scouts. Volunteering is one way I have found to give back to the base, plus I like to work in a garden and see things grow.”
Through the Veteran’s Remembrance Garden, the American Red Cross Station at RAF Mildenhall hoped to increase the quality of life for residents and visitors to RAF Mildenhall, show respect and admiration for those veterans who have served the U.S. in the past, and encourage hands-on volunteering. “By taking part in the President’s United We Serve initiative we hope to have helped others and encouraged people to make volunteering a part of their everyday lives” said Holly Harper, Station Chair for the American Red Cross Station at RAF Mildenhall.
The American Red Cross Station at RAF Mildenhall has continual availability for volunteers throughout the year. For more information, email red.crossV3@mildenhall.af.mil.