Wreaths placed at KIAs graves

Veterans Day is to honor the veterans who have served.

Memorial Day is to honor the veterans who have died.

National Wreaths Across America Day is to honor the veterans killed in action (KIA) and to support their families here at home.

The annual ceremony of placing Christmas wreaths at the headstones of soldiers killed in action started 15 years with a way to “Remember the fallen, Honor those who have served, and Teach our children the value of freedom.”

Local Amvets officer Wayne Rolston and his wife, Pam, and son, Dylan, accompanied Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8445 member Ralph Reynolds and his wife, Joyce, and son, Chase, Saturday to place wreaths and flags at the tombstones of soldiers from the Auglaize County area buried in the county.

During a grey, drizzly Saturday afternoon, the  two families placed wreaths at the tombs of seven veterans — Michael D. Armstrong, Dennis Dulebohn, Gary Detrick, Bruce Kolter, Ronald N. Parsons, Michael L. Oen and William Lammers — killed in action during the Vietnam War and one soldier — Michael J. Schoolcraft III — killed in action during the Iraqi War.

The wreaths were sponsored by Freedom’s Colors, Amvets Post 333, Sons of Amvets Post 333, VFW Post 8445 and Bayliff & Son Funeral Home in Cridersville.

Reynolds, who has organized the annual event locally for the past several years, said it is a commitment to his fallen comrades who served during the Vietnam War and the more recent military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He also said he believes if his name was etched in headstone instead of Dulebohn or Kolter that they would be doing the same thing for him and the others who served.

“It means so much to me to honor our fallen soldiers,” Reynolds said. “It is a commitment a veteran has to another veteran and it is important for the community to remember as well.”

The two families started by placing a wreath and small American flag at the headstone of Dulebohn, who died on Dec. 22, 1968, and then they moved a short distance to the headstone of Kolter, who died June 17, 1969. The two men are buried at Greenlawn Cemetery in Wapakoneta.

Reynolds explained the difference between this day and other days honoring veterans.

“Actually, I think every day should be Veterans Day,” Reynolds said. “Really, I don’t think there is a big difference between the other days and Wreaths Across America except the others are national holidays and Wreaths Across America is more for the families who are remembering their lost loved ones.

“As a community we may slip and forget about honoring them, but as a family with a fallen soldier they think about the person every Christmas and every Thanksgiving with their prayers,” he said. “They are missed very much around the holidays and they are remembered for who they are. We all need to remember them.”

The two families continued on to the other cemeteries in the area — an event that took most of the afternoon. For that afternoon, they became part of many families.