This Christmas 2022 season, Sami and I participated in a holiday wreath-laying event that took place at national cemeteries across the the country. Every year on the third Saturday in December, Wreaths Across America coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and 3400 other locations in the U.S. and overseas. Their mission is to “Remember our fallen U.S. Veterans, Honor those who serve, and Teach your children the value of freedom.” It was a privilege to be able to participate with Sami and be able to do all three, even in small ways.
We volunteered at the Riverside National Cemetery event which commenced at 0900. Sami and I left the house early in order to make a stop for a Starbucks breakfast before hitting the interstate. As we sipped on our lattes heading east on I-210, we looked up and saw a brilliant rainbow in the clouds above Azusa. We took this as a sign of blessing on the morning. Thankfully, the drive proved to be smooth, and there was very little traffic on the freeways. The only traffic we hit was on Van Buren, just outside the cemetery. It looked like this would be a busy morning. I typically don’t love traffic, but this was an exception. It was beautiful to see how many people were coming out to honor our veterans.
After parking the car, we headed over to the ceremony. It was dignified, as is fitting of a military ceremony, and Sami and I were more emotional than we had expected to feel. Ceremonial wreaths were laid to honor each of the five branches of the U.S. military, the Merchant Marines, and soldiers who are missing in action or prisoners of war, along with a new wreath acknowledging the Space Force. The ceremony concluded with prayer, the playing of Taps, and Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. We then headed back to the car to pick up the wreaths.
Every year, the sections where wreaths are laid are rotated so that every few years each grave will receive a wreath. We headed to a section close to where my dad is laid to rest. After laying the six wreaths for the section, saying each soldiers’ name and thanking them for their service, we walked back to the car and took the wreath that was handed to us by one of the cadets for our soldier. We then walked over to my dad’s grave. Sami laid her wreath, and we sat for a while, feeling the mix of grief and gratitude. While we still feel our loss, we are still blessed by the sweet and funny memories he left us. I hope that doesn’t ever go away.
I hope we have the chance to make this an annual event for our family. For us, the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach has become even more poignant. In addition to remembering my dad and the veterans who have passed on, we were able to honor our Jacob and those who are currently in the service with him. We are forever grateful for their service, and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to spend the morning with Sami, reinforcing to her the value of freedom and that freedom isn’t free. We pray for the safety of our servicemembers and for their families. May they all experience comfort and joy this holiday season.
We hope for you and your family a blessed holiday season. With love from the Cranky Camper.