PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (Dec. 20, 2021) – This Wreaths Across America Day, Dec. 18, about 30 people gathered at the Presidio of Monterey Cemetery to remember fallen U.S. veterans, honor those who serve and teach children the value of freedom.
After a ceremony marking the occasion, volunteers fanned out throughout the cemetery and laid wreaths on all the cemetery’s 393 graves, saying the names on the headstones as they laid the wreaths.
Nathaniel Pleasantbey, event organizer and PoM Survivor Outreach Services manager, said similar events took place at more than 2,700 other locations on Wreaths Across America Day throughout the United States and overseas, and millions of people participated.
“We are proud to be Americans that live in a free society made up of people from many walks of life,” Pleasantbey said in a speech during the ceremony. “The freedoms that we enjoy today have not come without a price. Laying here before us and in cemeteries throughout the nation are men and women who gave their lives so that we could live in freedom and without fear.”
Wreaths Across America, which coordinates the wreath-laying efforts, became a nonprofit organization in 2007 and is headquartered in Maine. Congress unanimously voted Dec. 13, 2008, as the first “Wreaths Across America Day,” and now people celebrate it annually on the third Saturday in December.
This is the fourth year PoM has participated in Wreaths Across America Day, Pleasantbey said. Due to COVID-19 restrictions at PoM, it was a closed-post event open to those with Department of Defense identification.
Volunteers at the PoM event included Col. Varman Chhoeung, commander of U.S. Army Garrison PoM, local members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and Callie Peryea, 7, a Girl Scout who came with her parents. Lt. Col. Matthew Upperman, commander of the 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, helped lay wreaths, and three Soldiers from the battalion lowered the flag to half-staff for the playing of taps before also helping lay wreaths.
Chhoeung said the Wreaths Across America event was great because it brought the community together and allowed people to remember those who came before them.
Similarly, Shelley McFadden, a member of the DAR, said Wreaths Across America Day does a good job of bringing people together in remembrance at Christmas, a time of the year when gathering with others is important.
Kitty Nevin, also a member of the DAR, said she especially appreciated the fact that volunteers said the names on the headstones aloud and also read the headstones.
Ruth Peryea, meanwhile, said she brings her daughter Callie to memorial events such as Wreaths Across America Day so she knows their significance.
“It’s always important to remember who came before you and get out there and remember them and make sure that somebody is still doing nice things for them and keep areas like this looking nice,” Ruth Peryea said.
In his invocation, Chaplain (Maj.) Benjamin Ellington, deputy USAG PoM chaplain, said one of the unique aspects of veterans’ cemeteries is that no one can purchase a plot with money; everyone buried there has earned their place.
“As we pause to pray, let us remember how grateful we are for those who purchased their places here with blood and with duty,” Ellington said. “They also purchased our freedom and our right to gather here today.”