On the morning of Saturday, December 15, after the opening keynote speech from Medal of Honor recipient Retired Army Captain Gary M. Rose, the somber notes of Taps played for family members and volunteers who had gathered to place wreaths on the graves of veterans interred at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo, Alabama. Among those in attendance were middle school students from Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School who dedicated their Saturday morning to honoring those who served.
MCPS students Sam Roberts, Karson Franklin, Aidan Blum, Hayden Binder, Sarah Souryiah, Ryan Parker, Izzy Priori, Ben Nguyen, and Monica Nguyen participated in the annual Wreaths Across America ceremony. They were joined by MCPS middle and high school principal Mr. Justin Castanza, middle school guidance counselor Mrs. Mary Kelley, and high school history teacher and veteran Mr. Hollis Johnson.
Wreaths Across America is a volunteer organization whose mission is to remember the fallen, honor those who serve, and teach children the value of freedom. Once a year, volunteers from across the United States, at sea, and abroad gather at military cemeteries to lay remembrance wreaths onto the graves of our country’s fallen heroes from all branches of service. This is the 10th year that the Alabama National Cemetery has held this event.
Although there are federal holidays which pay tribute to members of the military, Wreaths Across America aims to bring attention to the service of veterans and acknowledge the importance of remembering them, especially through the winter holidays.
“I think it's important to recognize the sacrifice that our vets have made for our country outside of just Memorial Day and Veterans Day,” said Johnson, who served as a Marine Corps artilleryman. “Christmastime is when families are thinking of their loved ones, so it is a very appropriate time to recognize our vets.”
Student Sam Roberts knows all about recognizing loved ones. He was able to place a wreath on the grave marker of his “Big Daddy”, Air Force Staff Sergeant William Allen King.
“I wanted to do something meaningful this season that helped the community,” Sam said when asked about his motivation to join Wreaths Across America. “It was really special to be able to honor Big Daddy along with all of the other veterans here.”
The Wreaths Across America event attracted hundreds of volunteers from across the state of Alabama. With the many hands available, placing wreaths on all 6,000 grave markers was light work. Some, like Sam, had loved ones they could honor with wreaths. For others, it was an opportunity to pay tribute to comrades in arms.
“Being a Marine vet myself, I personally sought out the graves of Marines to lay wreaths upon. It was a very moving experience,” explained Mr. Johnson.
For all in attendance, it was an unforgettable event, and hopefully it will raise awareness of the importance of remembering all veterans.
“It was a tremendous honor and privilege for us to participate in Wreaths Across America at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo this year,” said MCPS middle school guidance counselor Mary Kelley, who organized the trip. “The event was a moving tribute to all of our veterans who sacrificed so much to protect the freedoms we enjoy every day. We look forward to being a part of this wonderful event again next year.”
The wreaths will remain in the cemetery until January. The next Wreaths Across America event at the Alabama National Cemetery will take place on Saturday, December 14, 2019. More information can be found at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.