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Outgoing NHCCC CO: Tree symbolic of possibilities

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Story by William Love on 06/18/2019
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- A mesquite tree in front of Naval Health Clinic Corpus Christi (NHCCC) tagged for removal by base workers following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in August 2017, and spared from the chain saw by a caring Navy surgeon, now thrives and represents renewal.

Several wardroom members on June 6 presented Capt. Miguel A. Cubano, outgoing commanding officer of NHCCC, with a plaque for the tree that states: "This tree, Harvey & Irma, withstood two hurricanes and lightning. Battered but never broken, it stands for the resilience within us all."

The "v" shaped tree located on the grassy area behind on the flagpole has been part of the clinic's landscape for many decades.

One month after Cubano assumed command of NHCCC, Irma following on the heels of Harvey, caused severe damage as well as unprecedented and catastrophic flooding in the area.

During base cleanup, Cubano intervened just in time to deter the workers from destroying the tree.

"That particular tree caught my attention because of the way it was split through the middle, and initially I thought it had been hit by lightning," said Cubano, who understands the devastation of lightning strikes on trees. "Within three days of the hurricane, although it was badly uprooted with exposed roots, everything looked fine and I realized that the tree would survive."

The mesquite is native to the southwestern United States and Mexico, and in order to seek water from very far underground it has extremely long roots.

"I had no idea that it was going to turn out to be this beautiful and have really four trees instead of one," said Cubano about the extra two branches that have grown on each of the two main trunks. "So I took it as a way to demonstrate that you need to pause look at things wisely, and I compared that to caring for our patients."

Cubano says that many patients are quiet and non-assuming, and perhaps their only claim to fame is a faded ball cap marked with Viet Nam, Korea or Desert Storm.

"We must stop and value each person," said Cubano. "Harvey & Irma prove that like our wounded warriors, with time and care there is hope that we can all be productive, useful and beautiful again."

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