Across the country, more than 2.5 million wreaths were placed on the graves of servicemen and women at 2,700 cemeteries during the annual Wreaths Across America ceremony December 18. More than 260,000 of those wreaths were at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
In its eighth year of participating in the ceremony, the Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps placed eight wreaths at Arbovale Cemetery. The wreaths were to honor members of each branch of the military and POW/MIA.
The cornerstone of Wreaths Across America is to Remember, Honor and Teach. In his presentation during the ceremony, Honor Corps Commander Rick Wooddell spoke on those three principles.
“Today, we show a united front of gratitude and respect across the United States of America as we remember the fallen, honor those who serve and their families, and teach the next generation the value of freedom,” he said.
“We are all proud to be Americans that live in a free society made up of many people, from many walks of life. The freedoms we enjoy today have not come without a price. Lying here before us and in cemeteries throughout this nation are men and women who gave their lives so that we can live in freedom and without fear. We can worship as we see fit. We can raise our children to believe as we do. We are free to vote for leaders of our choosing. And, we have the ability to prosper and we have the right to fail at whatever endeavor we wish to pursue.”
The wreaths are a way to honor the memories of those who have passed on, as well as their families. This year, included with the wreaths for the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, National Guard, National Guard and POW/ MIA, is a wreath for the U.S. Space Force.
“We honor them and their families for the sacrifices they make each day to keep our country safe from terrorism, hatred and injustice,” Wooddell said. “This year, we’ve added an additional ceremonial wreath to honor the men and women currently serving in the U.S. Space Force along with those veterans who have served in roles helping to secure our national interests in space.”
As Wooddell called their names, the following honor corps members placed the wreaths:
Army Specialist 4 Donnie Waybright – United States Army
United States Navy 2nd Class Petty Officer Norris Long – United States Navy
Army Specialist Ben Lukacek – United States Marine Corps
Air Force Sergeant Tommy VanReenan – United States Air Force
Air Force A1C Steve Fierbaugh – United States Space Force
Retired Navy Chief Sam Arbogast – United States Coast Guard
Retired Captain of the Merchant Marines George Fleck – United States Merchant Marines
United States Marine Corps Sergeant Duke Fry – POW/MIA in honor of the 93,129 United States servicemen and women from all branches of the services whose last known status was either Prisoner of War or Missing in Action.
“A reminder that the wreaths before you today represent our commitment as a United America to remember the fallen,” Wooddell said in closing. “We also want these remembrance wreaths to symbolize our honor to those who have served and are serving in the armed forces of our great nation and to their families who endure sacrifices every day on our behalf.”
The ceremony closed with a 21-gun salute.