Wreaths Across America is a growing annual event that honors our fallen troops in a very special way during the Holidays at National Cemeteries across the nation.
On Saturday, there was such an event held at the South Florida National Cemetery, (SFNC) and at least 1500 onlookers attended. Mothers, dads, daughters, sons, young and old from every walk of life; Patriots every one of them, came to honor our fallen men and women in an expression of great love and respect.
For those that may not know about Wreaths Across America, (from their website):
“Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman, Morrill Worcester, in 1992.”
“Our mission, Remember, Honor, Teach, is carried out in part by coordinating wreath laying ceremonies a specified Saturday in December at Arlington, as well as veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.”
And that is exactly what today’s event was all about. Perfect weather greeted the onlookers, and one could not help but notice the three Walmart Trailers, (donated, drivers and all by Walmart) that had delivered the 8000 wreaths for the event at this location. All of the wreaths are paid for by private and business donations and entirely without government assistance.
One could also not help but notice the hundreds of motorcycles, several of which led the march to the color presentation around the Flagpole at the beginning of the second Memorial.
Starting at 10:00, the first Memorial, 'the final roll call’ listed the names of those interred this year from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, and all of today’s battle grounds. As each name was called, those in attendance that knew the deceased had the opportunity to say “personal,” signifying that this was someone they knew or were related to. Those individuals were then given a pin and the honor of placing a wreath on that grave ahead of the others.
From there, the second and final Memorial included several brief and very heartfelt speeches by those involved with the undertaking. Melinda Galiano, herself one of the tireless driving forces behind the event served delightfully as Mistress of Ceremonies. She told me at the beginning that she was nervous, and if she really was, it certainly didn’t show as she effortlessly managed the proceedings.
Kirk Leopard, Director of the SFNC, welcomed the gathering and thanked everyone for their support. Capt. Bill Coury, a former POW, explained the POW/MIA Table to the right of the tent and what each item on it represented. Mr. Lou Galterio offered an amazing rendition of our National Anthem and followed it with an equally stirring rendition of God Bless America. Also on hand to address the group, and the only elected official that we saw, was Congressman Allen West. As he often does, the Congressman used the occasion to discuss the need to teach our young people about the history of our great nation, and about the sacrifices of our brave men and women throughout our history who have paved the path for our freedoms.
After the invocations and brief speeches, a representative from each branch of the military placed a wreath under the Flag which was flying at Half Staff in honor of the men and women and hallowed ground upon which it stands, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house when the woeful sound of 'Taps’ was played by Max Nelson and lingered for a few moments in the light breeze of the afternoon to end the ceremony.
With the ceremonies completed, everyone in attendance was invited to help place the wreaths on the gravestones of the interred, and during the next hour or so, in respectful and relative silence, they did.
The Patriots Press wishes to acknowledge those responsible for putting this incredible event together. As a group, The Florida Patriot Guard cannot be thanked enough for their never ending support of such events. Special mention to Richard 'Whistler’ Little, (who was presented with a plaque for his unending support and volunteerism by members of Florida Patriot Guard) Melinda and Gary Galiano, Mike Nuckles, Rabbi, Art 'Wingman’ Rogers, our men and women in uniform, PBCSO, Seminole Ridge H.S. JROTC, BSA Troop 175, and so many more volunteers and groups. This incredible day and honor would never have gotten off the ground without your tireless dedication and we salute you.