Marine Corps Base Quantico -- A picturesque cemetery of green wreaths with red ribbons set the scene for Wreaths Across America at Quantico National Cemetery Dec. 12 in Triangle, Virginia. The holiday wreath-laying ceremony gave more than 300 members from the community an opportunity to gather in remembrance of our nation’s fallen heroes.
“Many youth groups participated to teach children about American heroes and veterans to whom we owe our freedom,” said Richard Leonard, the ceremony guest speaker, who retired in 2000 after 25 years in the Air Force.
Youth from the Civil Air Patrol Squadron of Fredericksburg, Virginia, Chcori JROTC Battalion, Spotsylvania Career and Technical Center, in addition to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, played a vital role in the ceremonies’ success.
“A lot of folks that show up are either veterans, family members of veterans or friends of folks buried here,” “Leonard continued “This is a special place for me because my parents are buried here as well as colleagues from the police department where I worked.”
Buses, cars and motorcycles lined the streets of the cemetery, as community groups came together to lay approximately 5,000 wreaths on headstones during the nationwide wreath-laying ceremony.
“This crowd has grown more than two-thirds larger than last year,” said CWO 5 Vince Pope, Weapons Training Battalion, Marksmanship Program director, who commented on the large crowds that gathered at the cemetery.
Pope laid one of seven wreaths during the ceremony in remembrance of those who served and are still serving in the military.
“It is an honor, because all Marines know that there are those who never come back from a deployment,” he said.
Pope has participated in the ceremony for the past three years as a way to represent the Marine Corps during community services. Pope’s father served in the Navy, his father-in-law retired from the Army and he has completed seven successful deployments.
“Although some people here have never been in the military, they believe in what the military does. They know freedom doesn’t come free. Someone has to sacrifice,” he said. “This event shows how patriotic our community really is, even in the midst of turmoil. People come together for these types of things, because it’s important to remember these veterans.”
Two unique wreaths decorated with gingerbread men and candy-shaped ornaments were created for the children of Gold Star Mothers in the Blue Star Mothers of Fredericksburg program. The group of Blue Star Mothers have children who currently serve in the military or have served in the past.
Since 2008, the group has expanded its membership in Northern Virginia. Seventy-eight Blue Star Mothers raised $1,600 to donate 320 holiday wreaths to be laid Saturday. Members include mothers from Fredericksburg, Stafford, King George County, Spotsylvania County and Orange County.
“Our participation is very important because our sons and daughters are out there,” said Teri Reece, Blue Star Mother’s president. “We are proud to support these mothers. We know one of these gravestones could be our own child and so we support each other through this network.”
Members of the community can support the wreath clean-up Feb. 6.
Photo and story by Ida Irby, staff writer - firstname.lastname@example.org