Over 100 persons gathered outside City Cemetery’s Myra Wilson Chapel on the morning of Saturday December 15, 2018 for the first local participation in the Wreaths Across America project. Following a brief ceremony, these participants helped place over 500 live fir wreaths upon the gravestones of military veterans in both the City and adjoining Mel Haven cemeteries. The wreaths, manufactured by the Worchester Wreath Company in Maine, were delivered on Friday December 14 to organizers Jimmy and Dena Loyd. With the help of volunteers, they had already marked each veteran’s grave with a small orange flag to assist the correct placement of the wreaths. On Saturday, the weather co-operated too, making a beautiful day for the community activity.
Retired Staff Sergeant James C. Bounds assisted the Loyds in organizing the public part of the ceremony. Local Boy Scout Troop 69 responded for posting of the colors. Members of a Girl Scout troop and local uniformed veterans responded for the laying of wreaths representing the various branches of the military. Speaking and signing the Pledge of Allegiance was Jacie Prichard, and the National Anthem was sung by Jackson Meeks. ‘Taps” was played by bugler Nathan Braddy of the SSHS Marching Band. Following a moment of silence, Bounds thanked the veterans in attendance for their sacrifices in keeping us free. He reminded those present that “Remember, Honor and Teach” are important messages that parents, grandparents, teachers, neighbors and others can send to young ones. He shared a quote from President Ronald Reagan; “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” Bounds also explained the meaning of the evergreen wreath as a symbol of unity and honor and reminded that the name of each veteran should be spoken at each gravesite during the ceremonial placing. He then dismissed the group to go into the cemeteries where wreaths were grouped at various stations.
The Wreaths Across America project began at Arlington National Cemetery in 1992, and has spread across the nation touching the lives of thousands of school, scout, civic and religious groups. Because of it, volunteers in towns and communities are moved to honor their fallen heroes on the designated day, December 15. According to the WAA website, “We understand we have Veterans Day in the fall and Memorial Day in the spring, but our service members sacrifice their time and safety every single day of the year to preserve our freedoms”. It’s mission is: REMEMBER our fallen U.S. veterans. HONOR those who serve. TEACH your children the value of freedom.
The Loyds laid their son, Staff Sergeant Chad Loyd, to rest in Sulphur Springs City Cemetery after he was killed in action in Iraq in 2006. Thus, they chose it for the first Hopkins County site for Wreaths Across America. Find out how you can sponsor a cemetery in 2019 on Facebook or at WreathsAcrossAmerica.com.