By Mrs. Melissa K Buckley (Leonard Wood)December 19, 2013
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Dec. 18, 2013) -- Remember, honor and teach was the goal Saturday at cemeteries across the nation and around Fort Leonard Wood as more than 800 communities participated in the Wreaths Across America event.
"Wreaths Across America's mission is to remember, honor and teach people about the sacrifices made by America's servicemen and women. The simultaneous wreath laying at veterans' graves around the world on the same day in December is part of that. It is a way of honoring our veterans and letting people know that we will not forget the sacrifices they have made for us and for the country," said Charles Baxter, Missouri Veterans Cemetery-Fort Leonard Wood director. "It makes me feel very proud, and a little bit humbled, to know that not just the Families of those buried here but the community and Fort Leonard Wood comes together to remember these veterans and to honor them by placing a wreath on their grave."
This is the third year the Missouri Veterans Cemetery - Fort Leonard Wood has participated in the event.
Prior to the service, the wreaths were escorted to the cemetery by officers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Robert Police Department, Waynesville Police Department and Patriot Guard Riders.
"Trucking companies and drivers across the country volunteer their services in picking up the wreaths and delivering them to over 825 locations," Baxter said.
At the ceremony on Saturday, guest speaker, Brig. Gen. Mark Spindler, U.S. Army Military Police School commandant, had a special message for the gold star Families in attendance.
"To every parent and Family member of those who sacrificed -- you have also made tremendous sacrifice for America. To lose a son, daughter, mother, father, sister or brother is a loss so great that no words can define and no words can heal your sorrow," Spindler said. "Words cannot express our feelings, our gratitude today. Just know that we stand with you. We will always remember, and we honor you for your extraordinary sacrifice for freedom's cause."
He then spoke about the wreaths and the symbolism behind the adornment. Spindler said in ancient times wreaths were often worn as crowns to demonstrate Rome's lineage to great rulers, and today the evergreens symbolize fortitude, unity and the ability to survive the harshest of conditions that lie ahead.
"The simple act, the laying of the wreaths, is also laden with great tradition. The wreaths today, as in yesterday, reflect strong bonds that make us a community. The wreaths, like yesterday, mark the achievements and service of those who now lie here," Spindler said.
"As we leave this sacred place today, the day will surely grow dark, and this place of honor will be seemingly lonely and colder. But, we should take refuge in knowing that these humble servants are not alone, they now stand together in great warmth and light, donning a shining wreath and guarded -- by the heavenly host."
On the same day, in St. James, Mo., more than 750 wreaths were placed at the St. James Veteran's Home Cemetery for Wreaths Across America.
According to the Wreaths Across America website, 406,000 wreaths in total were placed in 2012; 105,000 at Arlington National Cemetery. Last year, there were 815 participating locations all around the country, in all 50 states and at national veterans' cemeteries on foreign soil.
Baxter said he depends on members of the community to make Wreaths Across America a success at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery-Fort Leonard Wood each year.
"I want to say thank you to our families, the local communities, youth organizations like The Pulaski County Young Marines, the Boy Scouts, and Civil Air Patrol, as well as the Soldier volunteers from Fort Leonard Wood who come together to assist our staff in making this ceremony happen. I also want to thank the Assistance Association who have worked so hard in the community to raise funds to help support this," Baxter said.
If you want to contribute next year, Baxter said you can go to the Wreaths Across America website at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org, or by donating the money directly to the Missouri Veterans Cemetery - Fort Leonard Wood Assistance Association.
"Anyone, whether an individual, organization, or business, can make donations. When donating directly to the WAA website the wreath cost is $15, with $10 sponsoring a wreath for our cemetery and $5 going to help supply wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery," Baxter said. "By going through the Assistance Association the full donation goes to sponsor wreaths for our cemetery."