NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The clash between the frigates USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere was one of the first major encounter of the War of 1812. Although equally rated, and carrying the similar armaments, The American-built Constitution had a secret weapon that gave her an unanticipated advantage over her British adversary. Long-range cannon from Guerriere repeatedly struck Constitution, but caused little damage.
“Hurrah,” cried American Sailors, “her sides are made of iron.” From that time forward, Constitution is better known for her nickname, “Old Ironsides.” The ship’s secret was not iron, but rather the sturdy Live Oak lumber of which the ship’s inner hull was constructed. Naval use of Live Oak trees in the building of warships had proven itself in combat.
In an affirmation to the robust traditions of the Live Oak in U.S. Navy history, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic paid tribute to the historically significant tree as part of their annual celebration of Earth Day and Arbor Day. Two Live Oak saplings were planted by NAVFAC Atlantic employees adjacent to the command’s headquarters on the northern shore of the Lafayette River Annex in Norfolk.
The planting of the Live Oaks was more than symbolic, however. The presence of the trees will also benefit the environment. Planted near the banks of the Lafayette River, the Live Oaks will strengthen the riverbank, preventing erosion and enhancing water filtration of storm water runoff.
The ceremony was sponsored by the NAVFAC Atlantic “RECing Crew,” a self-funded volunteer organization dedicated to the enhancement of the morale of the NAVFAC Atlantic community. The RECing Crew conducts numerous events that raise money to support major command events such as NAVFAC Atlantic’s holiday party and command picnic.
“The RECing crew is always looking for creative programs to support our workforce,” said Joe Vlcek, a physical scientist in NAVFAC Atlantic’s Environmental Business Line and co-chair of the RECing crew. “We saw this as a great opportunity to improve our environment while saluting the significance of the Live Oak in the Navy’s history.”
In addition to the planting of the two Live Oak saplings, RECing Crew volunteers shared the spirit of Arbor Day with other NAVFAC Atlantic employees as they distributed one hundred Silver Maple and Scarlet Oak saplings. Recipients of the saplings were encouraged to plant these native-Virginian trees near their homes.
Some of the new tree owners had their own ideas for their saplings. Karla Brown, a community planner, said she plans to plant her tree on family-owned land near Lexington, Va. Paige Flores, who works in Environmental Assessment, had a more personal idea.
“I’m going to plant this in a pot and keep it on my porch,” Flores said. “Then later I could plant this somewhere else as a memorial to my brother who passed away.”