Roots in Rememberance

Who we are

Although the mountains of eastern Coal Country and the western Rockies are two of America's most beautiful frontiers, one hundred years of unregulated coal and hardrock mining have left a legacy of environmental degradation and impoverished communities. The Appalachian Coal Country Team (ACCT) and Western Hardrock Watershed Team exist to address these concerns on a grassroots level. The result of a unique partnership between AmeriCorps VISTA and the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), we place full-time OSM/VISTA volunteers in small community watershed associations throughout Coal Country and the mining West. Currently, we have 34 VISTAs spread across 9 states, serving a regional population of over 1 million.[1] Coal and hardrock mining communities share another common demographic: high military enlistment numbers.[2]

On the tenth anniversary of September 11, we seek to honor those enlisted by beautifying and conserving the environment that raised them. We will dedicate a day of service to  the most revered yet threatened facets of Appalachia and the West: land and memory.

Our Service Activity

Week preceding 9/11: Since many of our organizations do environmental and educational outreach at local schools, service will begin there. Leaders will visit the classroom and, after speaking about the 10th anniversary, collect students’ memory of:

-          Someone they know who has served/is serving

-          First responders in their neighborhood

-          What a hero means to them.

The kids will write their anecdotes on re-plantable paper strips which have been germinated with Black Eyed Susans and Columbine, both native wildflower species.

Sunday, 9/11/2011: Since each town has its own unique cultural history, site leaders will elect the most appropriate spot to plant the children’s memory strips. Here, students and their families are invited to take part in a planting demo, where leaders will demonstrate proper planting techniques and then encourage the children to plant their dedications themselves. For the adult volunteers there will also be a tree planting project.

  • Addressing Community Need. This dynamic act of service addresses multiple community needs. For starters, we’re filling a void that exists in outdoor education. Unless students learn from parents who practice, there is no system in place for teaching the younger generation basic gardening and environmental stewardship skills. As the students infuse the planting strips with their own reflections, they develop a personal stake in what grows. In turn, they are both learning and investing in the environment. One of the ways the ACCT and WHWT address poverty is through environmental stewardship; it is our mission to arm communities with practical science skills and encourage civic engagement, so that the towns our heroes once called home can leverage sustainable change in their future.
  • Commemorating Loss; Honoring Service and Sacrifice. Upon asking the students to record their memories/anecdotes we are invoking a distinctive Appalachian tradition: storytelling. In the fall, we will practice recounting the stories of those who have served, let the memory absorb through winter, then reflect again in spring as the wildflowers bloom. Leaders will also keep a written record of the students’ writing, to be looked upon again in the spring. In effect, the town’s collective conscience of their heroes will follow the cyclical pattern of the four seasons. The wildflowers will reflect our remembrance.
  • Number of volunteers expected: On the lower end our estimate is 600, on the higher end its 1100-1200.
  • Volunteer Accomplishment. By donating their memories, time and physical labor to planting the 9/11 wildflowers, volunteers are empowered in several ways. First, patriotic revivalism and honoring the military is typically applauded in most of our communities where enlistment numbers surge. Second, volunteers are literally planting a part of themselves into the soil of their hometowns—becoming rooted. Add beautification to that and you’ve created permanence and a sense of home, which are particularly important for rural Appalachian and Western communities as out-migration and loss of human capital continue. The flower beds that bloom will also be visually stunning; volunteers will, quite simply, feel proud of their gardening accomplishment.
  • Promotion. The ACCT plans to speak with each site about the Day of Service and Remembrance, then follow up with support materials. We will announce our plans on our webpage and in email blasts to all of our partners, including Office of Surface Mining (OSM) alumni, academia networks, government agencies and commercial partners. Our Flickr page will display documentation from every site that participates and pending our materials budget, we may create media such as sound slides or short videos of the entire week. Promotional incentive will be offered to local nurseries in exchange for sapling donations. We are also interested in branding the planting day as a Let’s Move Outside (LMO) event.





[1] Names of our 34 participating organizations available upon request

[2] U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness, "Executive Summary of the 2003 Population Representation in the Military Services Population Representation," at poprep2003 (September 7, 2005).

Non-Prior Service (NPS) Active Component Enlisted Accessions by Geographical Region, FYs 1973-2009