Community, Rotary Club honors veterans at Wreaths Across America event

By Angela Simmons

Wreaths were laid on the graves of over 300 military veterans during the Wreaths Across America event at O’Fallon City Cemetery. It was the second year for O’Fallon to be one of the 1,400 locations in the United States, at sea and abroad that took place in the more than 25 year old tradition. The ceremonies were all conducted at the same time around the world. 

The ceremony was planned by the O’Fallon Rotary Club which, in conjunction with local sponsors like McAlister’s Deli in Shiloh, raised $4,750 to pay for the wreaths. 

Retired United States Air Force Colonel Phil Goodwin served as the event’s emcee, explaining the Wreaths Across America ceremony, and explaining each detail of the ceremony, such as the presentation of the colors and the rifle volley, both conducted by members of the O’Fallon VFW Post 805. 

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Girl Scout Halie Tanksley, and the National Anthem was sung by Emily Knedel. An invocation was read by OTHS JROTC Cadet Maggie Papproth. 

Mayor Herb Roach welcomed guests, and thanked them for braving the cold and rain to honor veterans. “We owe so much to our veterans for what they have done for us. Were it not for our veterans, we probably wouldn’t be able to celebrate our holidays as we are now able to celebrate them, so it’s very fitting that this ceremony is in December,” Roach said. 

He also thanked the O’Fallon VFW, the O’Fallon Rotary Club, volunteers from other community organizations, and the scout troops that were part of the ceremony, and wished blessings upon the entire city’s residents, and service members around the world. 

Retired USAF Colonel John “Woody” Almind was the event’s keynote speaker. “Remember Honor. Teach. This is the mission of Wreaths Across America. By coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and other veterans cemeteries around the country, Wreaths Across America strives to remember our fallen heroes, honor those who serve, and teach our children about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families to preserve our freedoms,” explained Almind. 

He also explained the story behind the dash between dates on a gravestone. “How we live our lives between the date we were born and the day we die is what’s most important. How did these men and women we honor today live their dash? We know they lived part of their lives in the service of our great nation.”

Local Cub Scout Packs 36, 46, and 47, Boy Scout Troop 94, and Girl Scout Troops 242, 599, 934 and 1126, as well as OTHS JROTC cadets laid the wreaths on the graves. 

Before the ceremony ended, Alimd said to them “When you place these wreaths on veterans’ graves, I encourage you to speak that veteran’s name out loud, thank them for their service and sacrifice, and reflect on that person and their life. Each wreath has a tag attached to it stating ‘Today, I placed a wreath on the grave of an American Hero.’ Please remove that tag and take it with you, and be proud of  what you did here today to honor our veterans.”

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