By Fort Sill Tribune staffDecember 16, 2019
FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Dec. 16, 2019) -- Over 1,000 wreaths were placed at the Fort Sill Post Cemetery Dec. 14, by hundreds of veterans, widows, children, citizens, and service members through the Wreaths Across America program.
The annual event remembers fallen service members, honors those currently serving and their families, and teaches children about patriotism, said Dale Scott, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 5263 trustee, who welcomed the crowd.
The wreaths are not Christmas wreaths to decorate the cemetery, but veterans wreaths," Scott said. "The wreath is a symbol of honor, respect, and victory."
The veterans wreaths were made up of 10 bouquets signifying the special qualities of veterans: faith, love, strength, honesty, humility, ambition, optimism, concern, pride, and hopes, he said. The evergreen symbolizes longevity and endurance; the red bow means great sacrifice.
The MacArthur High School Builder's Club, a civics student group, opened the ceremony with a moment of silence, reciting The Pledge of Allegiance with the audience; and a student singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Then MacArthur students placed a wreath for each of the armed services, the Merchant Marines, and Prisoners of War/Missing in Action.
Charlotte Bays, of Geronimo, has been coming to the Fort Sill's Wreaths Across America ceremony since her father, Master Sgt. Donald Broughton died three years ago. She said she also has other relatives and friends buried here. Bays brought her granddaughter Katonna Marshall, age 7.
"It means a lot to honor all the service members out here; they all served gallantly," she said. "And, we're teaching generations to come to honor and respect our military."
Retired Master Sgt. Ben Burris, of Lawton, placed a wreath at the headstone of his old friend retired Master Sgt. Walter Keen Jr. He came to the ceremony with Capt. Cullen O'Neill, a student in the Field Artillery Captains Career Course.
"I came here (Lawton) in'71 and I met Walter and we were very good friends for 18 years then he passed away," Burris said. "We never served together because he was already retired when I met him."
About 10 Soldiers in the Army Medical Department Direct Commission Course Class No. 01-20, directed visitors to wreath sites. They had just graduated Dec. 13, and were awaiting departure flights later that day, said Capt. Michael Huffman, DCC instructor.
Several members of the U.S. Military Veterans Motorcycle Club Oklahoma Chapter, helped hand out wreaths.
"We do as much as we can to help organizations who support veterans," said motorcyclist Ken "Snowman" Snow, a retired command sergeant major. "After we leave here we're going to the VA center (Lawton-Fort Sill Veterans Center) to give the veterans some goodies, socks, shoes, and soap."
Mark Hill, Fort Sill Post Cemetery director, helped coordinate the wreath laying ceremony. Also participating were the Society of Military Widows, School of Athens, and Soldiers from every brigade here.