Over 500 area veterans honored through Wreaths Across America over the weekend
Volunteers throughout the country honored veterans though Wreaths Across America on Saturday by placing wreaths on the graves of those who have served in uniform to remember, honor, and teach others about their sacrifice.
Locally, Wreaths Across America volunteers placed over 260 wreaths at grave sites throughout Highlands Cemetery and honored an additional 10 veterans who were cremated.
In total, local volunteers placed over 500 wreaths in honor of veterans throughout the weekend, which included graves sites at outlying cemeteries in the area.
WAA began in Highlands 4 years ago after Phil Potts and several patriotic friends travelled to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to witness WAA at the federal level. Since then, it has been an annual tradition in Highlands with Potts taking on the role of WAA Location Coordinator.
And traditionally, WAA in Highlands is a solemn yet public gathering with a ceremony sponsored by American Legion Post 370. However, this year because of the pandemic, the ceremony was streamed online and volunteers drove through, got out of their car to place a couple wreaths and pay their respects, and drove on.
Potts said there was a consistent stream of volunteers, but they were able to adhere to the 25-person limit state-mandated restriction.
Potts added that COVID-19 also affected WAA’s fundraising efforts by having to cancel events like Rotary Bingo and not being able to visit local church congregations to help spread the word of WAA.
Despite these setbacks, Potts said they were able to exceed their goal of sponsoring 550 wreaths by an additional 130 wreaths that will roll over for next year.
“The support from the community has been tremendous,” said Potts. “This year we couldn’t hold any fundraisers, it was difficult to communicate to the public, and we still exceeded our goal. I can’t thank the community enough for their support. I’m sorry we couldn’t have a public ceremony, but we’ll be back next year.”
Air Force Veteran and American Legion Member Tim Moseley helped place wreaths on Saturday and has been helping Potts honor those who have served in a variety of ways on Memorial Day and Veterans Day for the past 15 years. He was also part of the initial group that traveled to Arlington to witness WAA.
“As a veteran, I understand the sacrifices they’ve made,” said Moseley. “I want to do my part so they won’t be forgotten.”
WAA volunteer Mike Murphy MC’d the virtual ceremony honoring the seven branches of military, including POW/MIAs, with seven wreaths next to a flagpole with an American flag raised high.
Murphy also visited Virginia with Potts and has been volunteering each year since.
“It’s all about the three principles; honor, remember, and teach,” said Murphy. “Freedom is not free and we’re enjoying our freedoms on the shoulders of their sacrifice. It’s important to remember that and honor them.”
After the pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence, Members of American Legion Post 370 presented wreaths for each service and Bugler Ed Jones played Taps.
Service presenters included:
Army – Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor
Marines – American Legion Post 370 Commander Ed McCloskey
Navy – Kenneth Knight
Air Force – Bob Trevathan
Coast Guard – Bill Reese
Merchant Marines – PJ View
POW/MIA – Keith Hall
American Legion Post 370 Commander Ed McCloskey said that volunteers were given instructions on how to place wreaths in a respectful manner to ensure no veteran is ever forgotten; locate the headstone, lay the wreath, step back salute and say the name aloud adding a salutation if desired.
“The impact is that this ceremony is happening simultaneously at hundreds of sites across America,” said McCloskey. “To be a small part is very humbling.”
Pictured at the top of the article is volunteer Christine Murphy laying a wreath on a veteran’s grave at Highlands Cemetery on Saturday for Wreaths Across America.