Saturday, December 10th, was the Second Annual Ceremony for Wreaths Across America. Well that is, it was only the "second" one for Matt’s squadron; but actually this ceremony began several years ago because of a young man with a profound desire. I wrote about the history of Wreaths Across America last year on my blog, so I won’t repeat the information, but I hope you will take the time to read about it, here.
As I said, it is a new endeavor for our local squadron. Matt was the one that had actually found out about the ceremony to honor our Veterans at Christmas time who have passed away. He worked actively to bring the ceremony to this area. While wreaths are being placed on graves across the nation, wreaths are simultaneously being laid at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D. C. It is a very worthwhile program and it was once again a very moving ceremony at our local cemeteries for the second year in a row.
I was mildly disappointed, because instead of having the whole squadron lay the wreaths at both cemeteries, as they had in the past, this year the squadron was divided into two teams and half of them presented the ceremony at Riverview, (the new addition to Forrest Lawn) while the other half of the squadron laid the wreaths at Memorial Gardens. It probably made the most sense to do it this way to save time, but I didn’t like it quite as well, because it felt like we missed out on what was happening at the other cemetery.
However, this fact certainly didn’t detract from the program. Things began with the National Anthem, as Civil Air Patrol stood in formation; the First Lieutenant gave a meaningful and thoughtful speech honoring our veterans and pointing out freedoms we would not have if not for these men and women of our armed forces. Next, a wreath was presented for each of the Five Branches of Service as well as one for the MIA’s. Matt, as Lt. Colonel, led the flight in formation and also was honored to be able to present the wreath for the Coast Guard Branch of Service.
After Taps was played, the public in attendance was invited to aid in the laying of the wreaths. I am so thankful to be able to participate in this activity. It is such a heartwarming experience, and gives one pause to reflect on those that have so proudly and honorably served our nation. This year, Wreaths Across America formally asked that as participants lay the wreaths on the graves, we take note of the name and branch of service from a grave of our choice and later take the time to research the veteran to see if we could learn a little bit about him; this making it more personal. The person then becomes more than just a name or statistic, but a person who was, in fact, very real. I loved this idea, and the veteran I chose was a WWII veteran whose grave was embossed with the Scripture reference “Matthew 27: 53 -55”. I am excited to start researching this man and hope to write more about him later.
It was a cold 22 degrees F. while we worked, but the chill barely noticeable in all the activity. When we were done with our task and we got back into the car, my husband headed our vehicle north to the next activity on our agenda for the day. I knew we would be passing directly by the other cemetery, and I secretly hoped we could stop to see what the wreaths looked like at this cemetery too. Though I hadn’t said a word about it, my husband pulled the car into the cemetery at the first entrance. I couldn’t have been more pleased. As we approached on the south side of the cemetery, headed for the military section, I softly asked my husband to stop. We were passing my brother-in-law's grave and I could see someone had laid a wreath on his head stone. I knew in a moment it was on his stone. It was beautiful, and the fact that someone had found his grave to lay a wreath there this far from the military section really warmed my heart. As I went over to the grave just to spend a minute, I was especially moved to see a small token I had laid there months ago, was still there. I went to the car and asked Matt to get out and take a picture.
Once he did, we went on to the Military Memorial where the bulk of the wreaths had been laid. Last year, snow covered the ground in a deep layer of white; this year the ground was frosty green and the sun was shining brightly. It was every bit as lovely as last year. We stopped for more photos, and then went on our way feeling like we had at least done a small part in honoring some of our nation's finest at Christmas time. I remembered the cadets last year stating that they wished we had a wreath for every veteran in both cemeteries. They were a little bit closer to that dream this year and as the years progress and this program becomes more well known, I'm sure they will one day meet their goal. And I also have a feeling there will be many others whose day will be brightened; hearts softly moved, with the surprise of an intentionally meaningful and decorative Christmas wreath placed on their loved ones grave.