ST. GEORGE – Members of the Civil Air Patrol and local residents gathered at Tonaquint Cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 10, to honor deceased veterans with Christmas wreaths.
St. George was one of 25 locations across Utah that took part in Wreaths Across America, a national program that honors America’s deceased veterans during the holiday season by placing wreaths at their graves. The program is observed in over 600 locations across the nation and in 24 national cemeteries located on foreign soil.
While it is the 20-year-anniversary of the Wreaths Across America event, it is the first year the local chapter of the Civil Air Patrol has participated in it.
“Everybody that has been involved loves it,” said 2nd Lt. Aros Mackey, the public information officer for of the St. George CAP.
The wreath-laying ceremony at Tonaquint Cemetery took place at 10 a.m. The timing was synchronized with the primary ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The action was mirrored by the hundreds of locations that included other national and state veterans’ cemeteries, veterans’ monuments, schools and community centers throughout the United States.
A moment of silence was observed for the posting of the American flag as the ceremony began, followed by a prayer.
Mackey then addressed the crowd which consisted of local veterans and various other members of the community.
“The freedoms we enjoy today have not come without a price,” he said. “Those lying here and across the nation gave their lives that we can live free without fear.”
Mackey credited the sacrifice of veterans past and present for the many freedoms Americans enjoy, including the right of the individual to succeed or fail at whatever endeavor he or she wished to pursue.
He then addressed the veterans in the crowd: “Many of you are veterans of wars and conflicts that America has had to endure in order to protect the innocent and the weak. Many of you have answered that call and serve our country well and right now we say, ‘Thank you.’”
Wreaths were then placed at the base of the statue in the center of the veterans’ monument in Tonaquint Cemetery. Each wreath was dedicated to specific arm of the military: The US Air Force, the US Army, the US Marine Corps, the US Navy, the US Coast Guard and the US Merchant Marines. A wreath was also provided for the veterans listed as prisoners of war or missing in action (POW/MIA).
“The wreaths before you represent our commitment as the United States of America to remember the fallen,” Mackey said. “We also want these holiday wreaths to symbolize our honor to those who have served and are serving, as well as their families that give so much.”
After the ceremony and wreath placement in Tonaquint Cemetery, CAP members drove to St. George Cemetery and placed wreaths there as well.
Mackey said he expects Wreaths Across America to be an annual highlight for the county in the years to come.
“I think this is going to be a significant event for Washington County in the Future,” he said.
Across America began over 20 years ago with Morrill Worcester of the Worcester Wreath Company. Each year the company donated and placed Christmas wreaths on the headstones in Arlington National Cemetery. A non-profit organization grew out of these efforts and expanded the program nation-wide in 1992.
The Worcester Company continues to be a major supporter of WAA, donating over 30,000 wreaths in 2010. It is estimated that 400,000 wreaths were sponsored by businesses, individuals and groups this year, and were placed in veterans’ cemeteries, monuments and similar places of significance by over 150,000 WAA volunteers.
Anyone interested in sponsoring a wreath for the 2012 Christmas season is encouraged to contact Timothy Lee of the St. George CAP at 435-674-5326, or 949-310-3543.
Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.