Volunteers lay wreaths at national cemeteries


shadow

Tens of thousands of volunteers laid wreaths at VA national cemeteries across the U.S. as part of National Wreaths Across America Day, on Dec. 14.

Each December, Wreaths Across America coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at more than 1,600 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the activities.

Raleigh National Cemetery, North Carolina

A cadet from Cleveland High School Army Junior ROTC from Garner, North Carolina, salutes after placing a wreath.

A cadet from Cleveland High School Army Junior ROTC from Garner, North Carolina, salutes after placing a wreath.

Hundreds of volunteers showed up at Raleigh National Cemetery, including the Cleveland High School Army Junior ROTC from Garner, North Carolina. Various Scouts from Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts units laid wreaths, including more than 50 Scouts and dozens of adult leaders.

Following the wreath laying, retired Army Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag spoke. Sonntag recently retired as the commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Center of Excellence at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“Today, we stand amongst those who answered that call, many of whom gave the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation,” Sonntag said. “Through this time-honored tradition of laying wreaths, we proudly say, ‘Thank you,’ to all of our brothers and sisters interred here in this hallowed ground and let them know that we will never forget.”

He told the crowd about Army Sgt. 1st Class William Bryant, a Medal of Honor recipient from Vietnam interred at Raleigh. Bryant’s battalion came under heavy fire and became surrounded by the elements of three enemy regiments. Through the next 34 hours, Bryant repeatedly showed heroism running through gunfire to retrieve ammunition, overrunning an enemy automatic weapons position and calling for helicopter support.

Bryant Hall, the headquarters for the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, is named for the Medal of Honor recipient.

Houston National Cemetery, Texas

About 16,000 volunteers showed up at Houston National Cemetery.

About 16,000 volunteers showed up at Houston National Cemetery.

Approximately 16,000 volunteers showed up at Houston National Cemetery. Among those was Elliott Sortillo, who joined the Army at 16 to fight in the Korean War.

Sortillo landed at Inchon and pushed north to join U.S. Marines and British Royal Marines. Captured Nov. 30, 1950, Sortillo spent 31 months as a prisoner of war. Sortillo spent his 17th, 18th and 19th birthdays as a POW.

After his release, he went on to serve with special forces in Vietnam and in the DMZ in Korea.

Navy Veteran and U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw also attended the event. The Kingwood High School Junior ROTC presented the colors, the First Cavalry Division Lone Star Brass provided music and American Heritage Girls Texas 1325 led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Massachusetts National Cemetery

In New England, more than a thousand volunteers placed wreaths on the graves of service members at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.

Wreaths Across America held a ceremony at noon across from the main flagpole at the cemetery. Volunteers included school children and area Veteran groups who braved heavy rain to remember and honor the Veterans through the laying of remembrance wreaths, saying the name of each Veteran aloud.

“The wreaths symbolize everlasting life,” said Richard Wallace, director of the Massachusetts National Cemetery and a retired Air Force chief master sergeant. “It’s our sacred mission to ensure our Veterans will always be remembered.”

Organizers said volunteers laid more than 10,000 wreaths at Bourne.

Gold Star sister Mary Lou McCarthy was the guest speaker. She memorialized her brother, Army Sgt. Maj. Kevin Walsh.

Volunteers also included staff from the Cape Cod Vet Center and from the VA Boston Healthcare System.

Wreaths Across America was founded by Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company, of Harrington, Maine.

All total, there were more than a dozen Wreaths Across America ceremonies in New England.


John Paradis, a senior editor and writer for VA New England Healthcare System, and Jose Henriquez, administrative officer at Houston National Cemetery, provided reporting.

Author

Adam Stump

Adam Stump is a public affairs specialist with VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. He is a retired Air Force Veteran who served 20 years, including two deployments to Afghanistan for detention operations and special operations.

Comments

  1. Gwen Griggs    

    A HUGE THANK YOU for what you do. My Brother was a Vietnam Vet, and I miss him so much. Your compassion and caring is so touching. To know that you do this for ALL Vets, is so precious, to know they are not forgotten. Words cannot express my appreciation.

    1. H G Jaranko    

      Cavalry not Calvary

      This word is misspelled on a Teddy Roosevelt “ Rough Riders “ photo on the wall in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building also.

  2. Kent staab    

    How find organization that is laying wreaths in San Diego.

    Thank you

    Kent

  3. Dr. Dennis L. Case (VietNam    

    God bless our American Veterans!!!

  4. Ronda Perry    

    I really appreciate all of you who help with this program.
    It’s a special thing to the families of the heroes you’re honoring with wreaths.
    I am a veterans widow, my husband was one of those hero’s whom you honored. He is at Boise Idaho Veterans Cemetery. Thank you very much!!
    Have a Merry Christmas!!

  5. Billy Charles Alverson    

    How do I find out about my local area?
    I would like to participate next year!
    Sincerely Charles A purple heart vet!

  6. Joan L Shepler    

    Thank you so much! My husband,a WW!! vet, passed this past year and is buried at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, GA. It was so beautiful. I was there Sunday, 12/15, which would have been his 92nd birthday!

  7. Walter Gadoury    

    I live next to a privet country cemetery of about four hundred souls which there are about 100 veterans dating from today’s date back before the civil war. Some families put wreaths on their loved ones grave but there are many that have one left to remember them. I walk the grounds at least twice a day and try to help keep it neat and orderly. I would be more than willing to place wreaths on their graves but I am retired and can not afford to buy them. I am a Army Veteran, I arrived in Vietnam and am very fond of Veterans, living or past.

  8. June M. Turer    

    My husband died this year and was buried in the Veterans National Cemetery in Houston, TX. I believe his grave will get a wreath free of charge. My son died in 2012 and is also buried in the same cemetery. The funeral home told me I would be expected to pay for his wreath, and I will be glad to do that. How can I arrange it? His name is DOGAN PARK TURER. I
    thought I would be getting a notice earlier in the year but did not, as far as I know.

    June M. Turer

  9. Andrew Bachus    

    Great Americans! Happy that people like this exist, people that want to give more than take!

  10. Shawn McCart    

    Would like you to add the following to the picture of my daughter.
    Piper McCart daughter of Chief Petty Officer McCart lays a wreath during the Wreaths Across America ceremony at Raleigh National Cemetery.

Comments are closed.