“Remember, honor, teach,” is the goal of an organization credited with placing millions of wreaths on the graves of veterans across the nation.
“Wreaths Across America” is a nonprofit organization founded to continue the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia begun in 1992 by businessman Morrill Worcester.
Saturday, Dec. 14, more than 100 people gathered at Meadowlawn Memorial Park on Highway 27 in Enterprise to participate in what has become annual event at hundreds of cemeteries nationwide.
More than 1,350 wreaths were placed on veterans’ graves in Meadowlawn. Remember the fallen, honor those that serve and their families and teach the next generation about the value of freedom, is the purpose of the event.
Each year, a new theme is chosen to help volunteers and supporters focus their messaging and outreach in their own communities. This year’s theme is "Everyone plays a part,” explained Nancy Rathburn, president of the Veterans of Foreign Wars 6682 Auxiliary.
“We are a close community and that was shown as we came together this week to welcome home one of our own that gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country,” Rathburn said, referring to the thousands who lined the streets from Dothan Regional Airport to Searcy Funeral Home in Enterprise in honor of Navy Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson who was killed in a shooting attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
“The momentousness of this occasion is heightened by the recent loss of the young naval ensign who is one of our own,” said VFW Post 6682 Chaplain Jerry Ogles, who read “The Prayer of the Midshipman” in honor of Watson, Caron Scott Walters of Richmond Hill, Ga., and Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham of St. Petersburg, Fla., “who died courageous in the evil that faced them.
“The men and women who lay in repose here, many who died in defense of their country and others who were willing, suited and ready to do so, are being commemorated by these wreaths that we are laying here today,” Ogles said.
“We need to remember Lincoln’s last words in his Gettysburg Address,” said Enterprise City Council President Perry Vickers. “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to the cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Vickers read a proclamation from the city declaring Dec. 14 as a day “honoring those who sacrificed so much for our country, to honor these selfless heroes.
“I don’t know how anyone can stand here today and look across this cemetery and not be humbled,” he added, encouraging those placing the wreaths to remember “the time given and the lives lost by those we are honoring here today.”
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” said Above the Best Warrant Officer Association Silver Chapter President Randy Godfrey, quoting from the Bible. “Thank you for sharing your love by placing wreaths on the graves of veterans who have gone before us and thank you for sharing your time, your most valuable commodity.”
Meadowlawn Memorial Park Representative Boyd May thanked Sam Boswell Honda, the Above the Best Warrant Officer Association, Patriot Guard, the Enterprise VFW and Auxiliary and the Republican Women of Coffee County for their support of the annual program. “This is a great turnout,” May said surveying the crowd assembled for the wreath laying ceremony. “This is very humbling.”