FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- The Missouri State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Leonard Wood hosted the 2nd Annual Wreaths Across America ceremony Dec. 10 as part of a national event originating at Arlington National Cemetery in 1992.

Among the distinguished guests, Gold Star Families were invited to attend this year's ceremony, along with the Fort Leonard Wood leadership team, service members, and members of the local community.

Seven wreaths were laid during the ceremony, one for each branch of the United States military -- Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines -- as well as one for Prisoner of War/Missing in Action.

Guest speaker Walter Dixon, a Korean War Veteran and former first sergeant with the U.S. Army, laid the POW/MIA wreath. He was captured May 18, 1951 and held captive as an American POW until his release Sept. 5, 1953.

Dixon engages in numerous speaking events each year, and recites his poems about his time in captivity. Through his presentation, he attempts to answer what it was like to be a POW.

In one of his poems, he asked that the audience forget that he was a POW for he would like to be able to forget it, too.

Brig. Gen. Mark Yenter, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, was the guest speaker for the event.

Yenter expressed his sincere gratitude to members of the community for inviting him to participate, and for their continued support and recognition of our men and women in uniform and their families for their commitment to our country and willingness to give all.

Music for the ceremony was provided by the 399th Army Band ensemble; the Waynesville Boy Scout Troop 202 led the Pledge of Allegiance; invocation and benediction by Chaplain Michael King; the Joint Services Color Guard from Fort Leonard Wood was led by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Beals; a three-volley salute was provided by the 13th Military Police Company led by Staff Sgt. David Fisher; and the MP Basic Officer Leader Class 10-11 and Fort Leonard Wood Composite Squadron Civil Air Patrol volunteered to assist with laying of the wreaths.

Members of the Missouri State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Leonard Wood aspire to sustain this program over the years in an effort to further the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach.

The Missouri State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Leonard Wood was formally dedicated Sept. 13, 2010 and is situated on 229 acres of land donated by the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood.

Wreaths Across America is a national, non-profit organization that coordinates wreath laying ceremonies on the second Saturday of December at Arlington, as well as veterans' cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.


Photo credit: Melissa Buckley, Fort Leonard Wood Guidon, photojournalist.