Watering flower beds
Third graders at Thomas Arnold Elementary School in Salado, Texas, water flower beds during a dedication ceremony of the garden at their school, Aug. 27. Troops from Fort Hood's 3rd Cavalry Regiment volunteered more than 100 hours to help clear the old garden and prepare the new one for the dedication ceremony. (Photo Credit: Christine Luciano, Fort Hood DPW Environmental) VIEW ORIGINAL

SALADO, Texas — Third graders from Thomas Arnold Elementary School commemorated the Kathi Walrath Memorial Garden in a dedication ceremony here, Aug. 27.

Principal Katie Mullins, Deputy Superintendent Burt Smith, Retired Brigadier General Jason Walrath and Melanie Lane, a third-grade teacher, along with Keep Salado Beautiful and troopers from 3rd Cavalry Regiment gathered with students in honor of Kathi.

The garden was the brainchild of Kathi, a longtime volunteer committed to giving back to the community, students and Soldiers.

“We want to thank our 3rd Cav. Regt. Soldiers who helped us many times over the summer, getting our gardens prepped and ready to start this adventure,” Mullins said.

Troopers from 1st Squadron “Tiger,” 3rd Cav. Regt. were instrumental in collectively volunteering more than 100 hours over the summer to support their Adopt-A-School and helped to clear cacti, move garden beds, weed and refill beds with dirt.

“I saw a lot of people who had never been around gardens before had their green thumbs develop,” Sgt. Marcus Brown, 1st Sqdn., 3rd Cav. Regt., said. “It was a wonderful opportunity to give back.”

Smith shared that Kathi was well-respected among peers and the community.

“I’ve heard her described as a servant leader, a great encourager, a faithful child of God, a loving mother and wife, a defender of the less fortunate, and an incredible supporter of our community,” Smith said. “She was all those things and more.”

Smith introduced Kathi’s husband, Jason, who echoed how her impact in the community was not about notoriety or personal gain but about service and about people. He explained that one of Kathi’s primary motivations was the connections and shared an excerpt from her journal of what he thought she might have said at the garden dedication.

“July 30, 2019. What shall I do? I expect to pass through this world but once; therefore any good work, kindness or service I can render to any person or animal, let me do it now, let me not neglect or delay to do it for I will not pass this way again,” he said. “When I reflect on that passage, I don’t think she thought her time was limited. She wanted to do the best with the limited time she had.”

It takes heart
Melanie Lane, a third grade teacher at Thomas Arnold Elementary School in Salado, Texas, holds a heart-shaped rock as reminds her students that it takes heart to cultivate relationships within the community and the environment during a garden dedication ceremony at the school, Aug. 27. (Photo Credit: Christine Luciano, Fort Hood DPW Environmental) VIEW ORIGINAL

Understanding that getting started on any project or endeavor is the hardest part, Jason thanked 3rd Cav. Regt. for their involvement.

“Thank you for stepping up and serving your nation, and thank you for coming and serving our community,” he said. “I envision this place for a child and an educator to come out and spend a peaceful moment reflecting.”

For Brown, joining the Army allowed him to not only serve his country but to serve the community.

“It was such a blessing, especially today, to see the third graders, teachers and families and how they feel about it,” he said. “I think it really personalizes what a community is supposed to be and what we all signed up to do.”

Lane, who led the effort to revitalize the garden, held up a rock shaped like a heart that was found in one of the beds full of cacti.

“In my life there has always been a heart rock that seems to be there just the right time when I need it to hear a message,” she said. “As Soldiers were removing the cacti, our rock was here and will serve as a reminder that it takes heart, and everybody cultivating relationships with our past, with our present and our future.”

Students from each class watered the beds and then Mullins closed the ceremony, expressing gratitude to community partners for their support.

“I want to say thank you to everybody who has come, who has been a part of, who has volunteered and who had a dream to get this going again,” she said. “We are looking forward to the continued efforts to revitalize and restore our gardens by cultivating connections with our community and environment.”