by Jerry Esmay, American Legion Post #94, Stevensville
As many readers will remember, a “Wreaths Across America” ceremony sponsored by American Legion Fort Owen Post 94, was conducted in the Stevensville area on Saturday, December 18th. Although we did have many folks turn out at the seven locations to witness the ceremony, we were frustrated that more people failed to come out. At our monthly Post 94 Legion meeting last Tuesday evening, the members suggested we should go ahead and submit my speech as a letter to the Editor in the Star as a means of informing readers of what this program is all about.
Here are excerpts from my speech:
We ask to start the event, that you all please join me in a moment of silence to remember the military fallen, prisoners of war, those missing in action and honor those who have served and are serving in this great nation’s armed services. Additionally, we also want to acknowledge the sacrifices that have been made and are being made by our first responders…
I will start by providing a few comments concerning the history of this program and my interpretation of the meaning of it. The wreath will then be placed, followed by the firing of three volleys and the playing of taps.
This program was started in 1992 by Morrill Worsester in the state of Maine to honor the veterans buried in the Arlington National Cemetery. The original intent was to acknowledge the service of those deceased veterans during the Christmas season.
The program has evolved over the years to encourage the placement of holiday wreaths on the veteran graves in all cemeteries. The program now has the following formal objectives: 1. REMEMBER – our fallen veterans,
2. HONOR — those who currently serve, and to 3. TEACH – our children the value of freedom.
In previous years, our Post successfully placed wreaths on all veteran graves in three cemeteries in the Stevensville area but due to the large numbers this is no longer feasible. So, this year we will accomplish a scaled-down version by formally placing a single wreath at four Stevensville area cemeteries, the Victor cemetery, the Stevensville Veterans Park and the Florence-Carlson cemetery. Additionally, we have expanded the meaning of this ceremony to also acknowledge the sacrifices that have been made and are being made by our first responders. That means we must remember that military service members and first responders sacrifice their time and safety every single day of the year to preserve our freedoms. Finally, as I mentioned previously, we want to make sure we also remember those military members still unaccounted for – the POW/MIA.
This day can’t and won’t replace Veterans Day or Memorial Day, but during the holidays, in some homes, families leave an empty seat for one who’s serving or one who’s made the ultimate sacrifice. So, there is no better time to express our appreciation of their service and sacrifice than during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
As a nation standing together, we can defeat terrorism, hatred and injustice. Thanks to our Military and First Responders, we have the freedom to do just that.