The Heart of Kernersville: Lori Egerter

By NJ Clausen

Merry, peaceful Christmas to all and Wishes for a happy, healthy New Year!
This month I would like to introduce you to one of our newer Kernersville residents, one who embodies the loving, generous heart of the Christmas spirit…Lori Egerter.

Born in Pennsylvania, Lori grew up close to Gettysburg in a home with a dozen acres of land. Lori’s parents were foster parents, and Lori remembers spending time outside with the various brothers and sisters taking walks, building campfires, and at the end of the day, crying when in bed because she was so very happy. Lori loved to write and received awards for her newspaper submissions. When her Army veteran father died from cancer when she was just 14, writing was therapeutic, allowing her to express how she felt.

In 2013, Lori and her family moved from Pennsylvania to Greensboro for her husband’s job. Five years later Lori discovered (in addition to her family) her purpose and her passion. Following the return of her son from military service and the appreciation her daughter received from handing out flags to veterans from her wheelchair, the ‘Tree of Valor’ was created.

The ‘Tree of Valor’ is a traveling military pictorial tribute, to honor every veteran and to make sure they are not forgotten. Framed pictures are hung upon the branches of repurposed artificial Christmas trees. Lori has a mantra, “No one left behind,” referring to all veterans. Although originally the idea was to do something special for her son to let him know how proud his family was of him, as word spread, pictures started arriving by email and shortly totaled over 300 in number. At that point Lori thought, “God, you must have had a plan to have given me all these pictures!” Although public activities generally require approval ahead of time, in 2019 Lori went to the City of Greensboro Parks Department and the Cultural Arts Center and was given permission to put trees up for three different events.

With the arrival of Covid in 2020, the opportunity to share the trees in different locations was curtailed, however the pictures kept coming, often with groups of family members that served. That gave Lori the idea to create miniature family trees, which brought into existence ‘America’s Family Tree Forest.’ This was also the year that her family moved to Kernersville, as a handicap accessible home was required, and Kernersville was able to accommodate the need. Even before they moved here, Lori has been ‘one of the biggest fans’ of Körner’s Folly. One of her dreams is to one day have a ‘Tree of Valor’ tribute of Kernersville veterans on display in this historic building.

Two recently completed projects are in memory of the last 13 veterans—11 Marines, 1 Navy Sailor, and 1 Army Soldier—who were killed in Afghanistan and were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal. Lori has created a sign with their names in addition to framing their pictures and placing them on a specific tree.

Sometimes the trees are on display at different locations, and Lori smiled as she recounted the time that permission was given to display ‘Trees of Valor’ the day before they were to be on display! It is a big job, but thanks to the VFW family and 20 volunteers, all was set up in a timely manner.

A display remains up at Coopers Vintage Village, where most of the pictures on display are of living veterans. Other than a donated item and a yard sign that yields a small return, there are no items for sale in this area. Lori has the area set up with 3 goals in mind: first, when a veteran sees it, they will realize they are not forgotten; second, that the families know that their veteran is appreciated and remembered; third, for America in general to remember. There are trees for all branches of the military, a tree for encouragement to help those with PTSD or related issues, trees for historic military engagements and other specific acknowledgements.

Holidays can be a challenging time and checking in with friends and families is always a welcome gift. If you are a veteran, you have a special place in Lori’s heart, and you are welcome to call her at 717-515-7418 for Christmas or if needing to be reminded that you are loved.

If you would like to have a loved one included in this tribute, become a sponsor, or find out what items are needed to be donated, please contact Lori at: thetreeofvalor@gmail.com.

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