A united front of gratitude and respect

Published 4:34 pm Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Judith Randolph-Longwood Chapter, Virginia Daughters of the American Revolution, paid tribute to deceased veterans lying in Trinity Memorial Gardens on Dec. 18, 2021 by participating in the nationwide Wreaths Across America (WAA) ceremony. Led by Regent Dr. Carolyn Wells, the event started at noon with the Posting of the Colors by the Cumberland High School Color Guard, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, led by CCHS JROTC Instructor Lt. Colonel Veronica Baker.

The opening ritual continued as Prince Edward County Commonwealth’s Attorney the Honorable Megan L. Clark, sang a beautiful rendition of God Bless America to a special arrangement by Perry Carrington. Jenny Bobko, a member of the Judith Randolph-Longwood Chapter, led the audience of over 100 in a recitation of “The American’s Creed,” after which the formal ceremony was officially opened by an invocation delivered by The Reverend Dr. Peter Smith, Pastor of the Farmville Presbyterian Church.

In addition to the distinguished individuals who participated in the opening ceremonies, Regent Wells recognized several dignitaries: Farmville Mayor David Whitus, Provost of Longwood University Dr. Larissa Smith, retired Chief of the Capitol Police in Richmond Col. Kim Lettner, President of Trinity Memorial Gardens Bill Barrett and representing the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Sharon Perutelli.

Regent Wells commended the committee who had worked to organize the event: Yvonne Costello, Jenny Bobko, Nancy Pempel, Dottie Fahrner, Scottie Alley and Arlene Cundiff of Lynchburg’s Blue Ridge Chapter.

Next Regent Wells introduced the speaker, Director of District III, VADAR, Betsy King, who delivered an informative, thought provoking message. King noted that this ceremony was being performed at this exact time, on this exact day, at over 2,700 participating locations, where millions of Americans have gathered together to remember our deceased veterans, to honor those currently serving with distinction in the armed forces, and to teach youth the meaning of honor, integrity and distinctive service.

Many of those lying interred at Trinity, and across the nation, gave their lives so that Americans can live in freedom and without fear. The audience was reminded that the United States of America was founded on the ideals of Freedom, Justice, and Equality, and that it stands as a critical example of democracy. Men and women in all branches of the military uphold our freedoms across our nation and at posts throughout the world.

King quoted Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, who once observed, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” It is critical for the youth of today and tomorrow to understand the importance of the values that undergird our freedoms. Those values must be fought for, protected and handed down from generation to generation. Otherwise one day people will have to spend their sunset years telling their children and their children’s children what it once was like when people were free.

The importance of Wreaths Across America was emphasized in her concluding remarks, “Today we show a united front of gratitude and respect across the United States of America as we remember the fallen, honor those who serve and their families, and teach the next generation the value of freedom.”

Next in the ceremony was the actual laying of the wreaths. First, a special wreath was placed on a stand to honor each of the military services. Retired veterans participated as follows:

Lieutenant Colonel Judith Chantelois laid a veteran’s wreath in memory of those who served and in honor of those who still serve in the United States Army.

Corporal John Meacom laid a veteran’s wreath in memory of those who served and in honor of those who still serve in the United States Marine Corps.

Captain Robert Nash laid a veteran’s wreath in memory of those who served and in honor of those who still serve in the United States Navy.

Staff Sergeant Larry Atkins laid a veteran’s wreath in memory of those who served and in honor of those who still serve in the United States Air Force.

Lieutenant Colonel Rucker Snead laid a veteran’s wreath in honor of those serving in the United States Space Force.

Chief Petty Officer John Miller laid a veteran’s wreath in memory of those who served and in honor of those who still serve in the United States Coast Guard.

Commander Fred Hill laid a veteran’s wreath in memory of those who served and in honor of those who still serve in the United States Merchant Marines.

Captain Jackie Lawrence laid a veteran’s wreath in honor of the 93,129 United States Servicemen from all branches of service whose last known status was either Prisoner of War or Missing in Action. These individuals have never returned to their families and homes. We will not forget them.

The final portion of Wreaths Across America was ushered in with the haunting refrains from the bagpipes of Dr. Marc Hight and Dr. Kevin Dunn, professors at Hampden-Sydney College.

As the bagpipe music hung in the air, volunteers placed 440 wreaths on the graves of veterans lying at rest in Trinity Memorial Gardens. Participants from Boy Scout Troop #6516, Boy Scout Troop #6596, Cumberland County High School JROTC, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Judith Randolph-Longwood DAR, relatives of veterans, and friends scampered up and down the hills of Trinity, gently laying a wreath before the tombstone of a veteran. Volunteers were encouraged to say each name of the veteran aloud, and take a moment to thank them for their service to our country. Veterans’ graves were identified by an American flag.

Wreaths Across America is a nationwide ceremony that began in 1992, when a wreath company ended its holiday season with a surplus of wreaths. The owner of the company (the Worcester Wreath Company) decided to donate these surplus wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery, where they were placed on veterans’ graves. Wreaths Across America is now based in Columbia Falls, Maine.