Scores of high school students gathered to dedicate a freshly planted pin-oak tree on the front lawn of Waxahachie High School on Monday afternoon

The tree will stand as a memorial tribute to U.S. Army PFC and 2007 WHS graduate Joel Ramirez, who died last month while serving in Afghanistan.

The tree was given by the parents of the 2011 Project Graduation.

“The kids wanted to do something special in memory of Joel,” Project Graduation 2011 chairman Shari Phillips said. “Several parents were contacted and, as a result, the tree was provided and is here today.”

The tree had dozens of small American flags around its base and plans are for a plaque in Ramirez’

memory also to be placed there.

Ramirez’ parents, Chano and Irma Ramirez, walked with a long procession of students outside for the ceremony. WHS principal David Nix called the group to order as everyone joined hands around the tree and paused for a moment of silence in memory of the fallen soldier.

With a broken voice, Chano Ramirez expressed his appreciation to the crowd.

“I knew we had lots of friends, but we had no idea we had this many,” he said.

Contact Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com or 469-517-1450.