As the bitter cold December wind whipped through Greenlawn Cemetery, a group of people held a moment of silence for local soldiers killed in action.
“May we continue to honor our veterans and their sacrifices for years to come,” said Ralph Reynolds, a member of the local veterans organization Freedom’s Colors, as he led the group gathered to lay the wreaths in remembrance of seven Wapakoneta soldiers killed in action.
“This is one way of paying respect and saying thank you,” he said as each wreath was laid.
“This time of year it’s important for the community to remember these guys,” he said.
Honored were Vietnam veterans Michael Armstrong, Dennis Dulebohn, Gary Detrick, Bruce Kolter, Ronald Parsons and Michael Oen, as well as Michael Schoolcraft III, who was killed in Iraq.
The wreath-laying ceremony, which started at noon Saturday, was part of Wreaths Across America, a 20-year national effort to honor those killed in action with evergreen wreaths laid on their headstones. This year, more than 325,000 wreaths were laid during more than 750 ceremonies throughout the United States with volunteers and donations making all of it possible.
The fresh evergreens used to honor the veterans pay a living tribute renewed annually as a memorial to the soldiers, who made the ultimate sacrifice, and their families.
The mission is to remember, honor and teach — remember the fallen, honor those who serve, and teach children the value of freedom.
“It’s important for the community to not only know what they’ve done, but why and to honor the veterans each year who gave their lives for us — our communities, freedoms and liberties,” Reynolds said.
While Wreaths Across America started honoring soldiers who were buried in national cemeteries, it is expanding to other burial sites as well.
“Any one of these men could have been buried in a national cemetery but their families chose to bring them back close to home so we wanted to do it for them, too,” Reynolds said. “We do this to honor them, to make sure they are never forgotten.”
Plans next year are to expand the local program, which has been ongoing for five years, to all 18 Auglaize County veterans killed in action and buried in local cemeteries.
Sponsors of the wreaths laid Saturday on graves of Auglaize County soldiers killed in action include the VFW Post 8445, VFW Post 8845 men’s auxiliary, VFW Post 8445 women’s auxiliary, Amvets Post 333, Sons of Amvets Post 333, Amvets Riders Post 333, and Freedom’s Colors.