Members of the Mahoning County, Ohio State University Master Gardeners and local church members gathered Saturday, Dec. 15 to honor veterans during the holiday season as part of the annual Wreaths Across America Day.
This year's national event is projected to have more than 400,000 wreaths placed nationwide at over 750 cemeteries, by over 150,000 volunteers in a mission to remember, honor, and teach.
Locally, members of the Ohio State University Extension Office's Master Gardeners have volunteered to conduct the WAA ceremony this year at the Paradise Lutheran Church Cemetery, 3689 West Western Reserve Road, Canfield, and the Paradise United Church of Christ Cemetery, 10020 New Buffalo Road, Canfield.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Representing veterans during the Wreaths Across America event on Saturday, Dec. 15, at Paradise United Church of Christ on New Buffalo Road in Canfield, were Dale Baringer, Marine Corp League chaplain representing POW/MIA’s; Marine Corp League member Dennis McCallister, representing the Coast Guard; retired veteran Glen Gallech, representing the Air Force; retired veteran and local VFW Commander Fred Shrock, representing the Army; retired veteran Frank Sokol, representing the Marines; Marine veteran Harry Dampf, representing the Merchant Marines; and veteran Mike Beaudis, representing the Navy.
Bill Snyder, coordinator of the Master Gardener's program at OSU Extension, said "We had 85 wreaths scheduled for delivery to the OSU offices for this event."
At each cemetery, a short ceremony was held to honor all branches of service including Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Merchant Marines, Coast Guard and those missing in action or prisoners of war. Representatives of each branch placed a wreath and offered a salute remembering those who sacrificed their time, and in some cases their lives, to protect the freedom Americans enjoy. The ceremony was emceed by Hugh Earnhart, president of the Master Gardeners at OSU Extension. It concluded with the ceremonial playing of "Taps."
"It teach our younger generations about the high cost of our freedoms," said Earnhart.
The Wreaths Across America story began more than 20 years ago when the Worcester Wreath Company from Harrington, Maine, initiated a tradition of donating and placing wreaths on the headstones of the nation's fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery. Recognition of the service and sacrifice of our veterans and their families is especially poignant during the traditional holiday season.
Worcester Wreath Company continues to be a major supporter of the project, donating over 30,000 total wreaths in 2011. About 400,000 wreaths will be sponsored by individuals, businesses, and groups from communities nationwide. Wreaths were placed in all 50 states and at 24 national cemeteries on foreign soil.
At the start of each ceremony, Earnhart added a moment of silence to remember the 26 who lost their lives at the shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Friday.