Hometown Heroes: Volunteers plant native trees at West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery

  • Right: Volunteers plant native trees on the pu‘u above the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery on Friday.

  • Lestorio Domingo plants a native tree Friday at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Barbara, Hannah and Bronsten Kossow plant a wiliwili tree Friday at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Left: Quentin and Isaiah Wong plant a native tree Friday.

  • Volunteers pose for a photo before climbing the pu‘u at West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery Friday to plant native trees. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Rob Yagi from the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative explains to volunteers how to plant the native trees at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • More than two dozen volunteers from various organizations came together to plant 100 native Hawaiian trees Friday at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery, including Art Chang, left, and Chris Olivera. The group planted 25 wiliwili, 35 a‘alii, 25 ile‘e and 15 koai‘a. Full story on page 7A. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, West Hawaii Today is publishing a story about individuals, groups or organizations that have helped make life better for others in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than two dozen volunteers from various organizations came together to plant 100 native Hawaiian trees Friday at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery.

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Rob Yagi of the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative led the group comprised of Kona Sunrise Rotary Club, ARC of Kona, Midnight Riders Motorcycle Club and American Legion up the pu‘u above the cemetery to plant 25 wiliwili, 35 a‘alii, 25 ile‘e and 15 koai‘a.

Barbara Kossow from Kona Sunrise Rotary had a project idea and approached Don Zero, Chief Financial Officer of the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery Development and Expansion Corporation. She suggested a volunteer day at the cemetery as an extension of the Rotary’s National Program of planting trees. Statewide, Rotatarians have planted more than 17,000 trees this year alone.

The idea was quickly accepted and Zero took on duties of coordinator. He approached the corporation’s membership to present and receive monies to go forward.

Yagi’s organization donated 25 of the plants while the cemetery purchased an additional 75. Yagi also laid out locations of planting and set the drip lines.

The pu’u to the west of the cemetery is tens of thousands of years old. Subsequent lava flows went around it creating a “mini-ecosystem.” Yagi said that a case in point is that there are only two koali kahioko plants left in the world; one of them is on that pu’u.

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Zero extended a heartfelt thanks to all on behalf of the corporation and those who share the area as their last home.

Reforestation of the dry lowland forest began in 2005 and with help from volunteers, students, veterans and active duty soldiers, continues today.

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