Throughout the nation, the graves of fallen soldiers and veterans have been decorated in honor of their service.
On Saturday, the Civil Air Patrol's Jamestown Composite Squadron hosted a wreath-laying ceremony at Soldier's Circle in Lakeview Cemetery. The ceremony was performed by First Lt. Todd Hanson as onlookers gathered in a reverent display of remembrance for those who have died helping secure freedom for their country.
During the ceremony, seven wreaths were laid side by side at the center of Soldier's Circle. Six represented branches of the military, including: the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. One wreath is displayed in honor of the 93,129 American soldiers who are either missing in action or prisoners of war.
A Civil Air Patrol Jamestown Composite Squadron cadet salutes a wreath in Soldier’s Circle in Lakeview Cemetery during the Wreaths Across America remembrance Saturday.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
The ceremony also included a presentation of colors by the Chautauqua County Veterans color guard, a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, a vocal rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," a brief address by Hanson, a prayer, a three-volley salute and the playing of "Taps." After the ceremony, two wreaths were laid at specific gravesites in Soldier's Circle and three were laid at the graves of Medal of Honor recipients interred at Lakeview Cemetery.
According to Hanson, the same ceremony was simultaneously performed at more than 800 different locations across the country, culminating in more than 400,000 fallen soldiers and veterans receiving a wreath at their gravesite.
"The significance (of the ceremony), for us, is to remember all of the veterans and all of their families," said Hanson. "We're coming closer to the holidays and everybody's thinking about the families, all the ones that have gone before us and all the ones that are in active military that aren't able to be home. (This is a) ceremony to remember all of these people. (The scope of Wreaths Across America) is just a testament to the people and how much they think of the military. I think it's great that everybody could come out today. We had good weather for it but we would still be here no matter the weather. The sacrifices we make are minimal when compared to what the military does."
According to Hanson, the Civil Air Patrol's Jamestown Composite Squadron was the first location in New York state to volunteer for hosting the wreath-laying ceremony, which is sponsored annually by the Wreaths Across America organization. Wreaths Across America was founded in 1992 by Maine businessman Morrill Worchester in remembrance of veterans, with the first wreath-laying ceremony taking place at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The goal of the organization is to eventually have enough sponsors to lay a wreath at every gravesite in Arlington.
People wishing to sponsor a wreath for next year's ceremony can do so as early as Jan. 1, by visiting wreathsacrossamerica.org. There is an option to sponsor individual or multiple wreaths either at Arlington or a specified participating location. Sponsored wreaths will be shipped to the Jamestown Composite Squadron, which will bring them to the cemetery for the ceremony.
"The biggest thing we'd like to see for next year is more people and veterans participating so that we can thank them in person," said Hanson. "It's not always an easy time, with parades and everything else, to catch all of the veterans but this is a good ceremony to just focus on the veterans and what they've done for our country."