Wreaths Across America honors the nation’s veterans

Children place wreaths on the graves of veterans during a Wreaths Across America ceremony at the installation’s cemetery in Edgewood Saturday, Dec. 16.

The Aberdeen Proving Ground community remembered the lives of fallen Soldiers during Wreaths Across America observances in Harford and Cecil counties Saturday, Dec. 16.

The day is designed to remember fallen veterans, honor those who serve and teach the value of freedom to children during the holiday season.

At the Edgewood cemetery, at APG South, Garrison Commander Col. Robert L. Phillips III delivered remarks during a ceremony hosted by the APG Community Spouses Club and the St. Kevin’s Division 1 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Phillips challenged the crowd of about 70 to never forget the sacrifices of service members.

“This is a small act that goes a long way in keeping their memory alive,” he said. “Honor them and never forget.”

Phillips said while the stories of all Americans have similarities, they are also unique in their own special ways.

He shared the story of three privates buried in the cemetery who were among the first Soldiers buried at APG in 1918. They served during what was known then as The Great War or The War to End All Wars. Now known as World War I, it led to the creation of APG and the Edgewood Arsenal.

“Their legacy is a part of our American story,” he said.

After the ceremony, community members placed handmade wreaths on each headstone at the cemetery and said aloud the name of the Soldier or family member marked on the stone. In total, 355 wreaths were donated and placed on headstones at the APG South and North cemeteries.

Wreaths Across America - Dec. 16, 2017

Phillips’ appearance was one of several by APG officials at local Wreaths Across America events. APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor attended a ceremony in Charlestown, Maryland, while Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Toese Tia Jr. was in North East, Maryland, and Soldiers with the 20th CBRNE Command attended a Wreaths Across America event in Bel Air.

During his remarks in Charlestown, Taylor said Wreaths Across America served as serious and solemn event, but a fun way to get the community together and celebrate what he called “a special gift” — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“We have the opportunity to be whoever we want to be,” he said. “That’s much of what the fallen have served in defense of.”

Wreaths Across America started in 2007, formalizing a tradition started by a Maine-based wreath company in 1992. Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine, took surplus wreaths his company made that year and arranged to have them placed on the graves of Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

The delivery happened annually. In 2005, a photo of the graves with the wreaths and a snowy backdrop went viral online and gained national attention. The following year, more than 150 wreath laying ceremonies were held nationwide.

This year’s theme for Wreaths Across America is “I am America. Yes, I am.” Veterans were remembered at events held at more than 1,200 locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad.

“These people are not forgotten until we quit saying their names,” said Chuck Hoppe, a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. “That’s part of the reason for this ceremony of when you lay the wreath, you announce the name.”