By Tony LopezDecember 19, 2016
Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. -- In an effort to remember and honor the interred Veterans at the Rock Arsenal National Cemetery, Brig. Gen. Richard B. Dix, commander, Joint Munitions Command, served as the keynote speaker during the National Wreath Across America Day Ceremony, here, December 17.
The Wreaths Across America program begin in 1992, when holiday wreaths were placed at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Each December the Nation pauses and coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington, as well as over 1,100 additional locations across the 50 states. Approximately 350,000 wreaths are provided nationwide. In addition, ceremonies are conducted in 24 sea and abroad locations.
In the Quad Cities area, the Wreaths Across America event is coordinated by the Illinois Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, with assistance from the Cutler Freight Company and the cemetery staff. Approximately 300 wreaths were distributed at the Rock Island Arsenal National Cemetery.
Some of the wreaths were donated through the program, while others were purchased by family members to place on the graves of their specific loved ones.
"Every wreath we place is a visible symbol of the sacred promise to remember our Veterans, to honor their memories, and to pay them back, for the sacrifices they made for us," said Dix.
Approximately 32,000 people are buried at the RIA National Cemetery, noted Sue Jehlen, Cemetery Director. "No Veteran should be forgotten," she said. "To me, it's about their legacies and remembering them. If you walk around, you see there are stories behind each headstone."
The ceremony included a welcome from Sue Jehlen; the introduction of Brig. Gen. Dix by Tom Nielsen, Civil Air Patrol; a rifle salute by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 299; and taps by Bill Hall, Bugles Across America. Eight ceremonial wreaths were laid at the cemetery's main flagpole, one to represent each branch of the military, one to represent POW/MIAs and one to represent all members currently serving their country.
Brig. Gen. Dix highlighted the Vietnam War Veterans during his keynote remarks. As part of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, he has been authorized through the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, to present lapel pins and certificates. He recognized all those Veterans who served from 1955 to 1975 in Southwest Asia who were in attendance. "Many of you were not honored in the way we should honor those who served our country," he noted.
"Today, let us recommit ourselves to preserving the memories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our great Nation, and to the Veterans who served in war or peace," concluded Dix.
Immediately following the official ceremony, Civil Air Patrol members invited guests and family members to lay wreaths at the individual grave sites. Brig. Gen. Dix and Civil Air Patrol members personally placed wreaths on the graves of two Medal of Honor winners and one Native American marker. A paper tag on each decoration coordinated by the Wreaths Across America program noted, "Today, I Placed A Wreath On The Grave Of An American Hero."