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Wreath-laying honors war vets

Wreath-laying honors war vets
Wesson Mayor Alton Shaw at a Socks for Heroes wreath-laying ceremony.

Special wreath-laying ceremonies will honor veterans buried in area cemeteries this weekend as part of a national program recognizing more than two million deceased veterans at grave sites in 2,100 cemeteries throughout the nation.

Wreaths will be laid at the graves of veterans in Crystal Springs, Beauregard, Georgetown, Hazlehurst and Wesson town cemeteries and at Sylvarena Baptist Church and Stronghope Baptist Church cemeteries as part of Wreaths Across America (WAA).

The Wesson ceremony will start at the American Legion hall on Main Street at 11 a.m. on December 17 with remarks about the sacrifices of war veterans and special comments by Alton Ricks followed by wreath-laying at grave sites in Wesson Cemetery where volunteers will say aloud the names of the memorialized veterans and offer prayers.

The ceremonies and wreath-laying will be part of the worship service at Sylvanena Baptist Church and follow the worship service at Stronghope Baptist Church on December 18. The Georgetown event will be on December 19.

Wesson-based Socks for Heroes (SFH) Cathy Stroud, Mamie Dubose, Dixie Thornton and Jean King coordinated the WAA events at Wesson and Georgetown town cemeteries and the Sylvarena and Stronghope churches.

The number of grave sites exceeded the number wreaths SFH could purchase for the local ceremonies this year, but fundraising will be ongoing for the future, Stroud said. The wreaths cost $15 each, and contributions can be made to SFH through Stroud, Sharon Langley and Janet Currie. Call 601-695-4140 for information.

"Our mission is to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and to teach our children the value of freedom," Stroud says. "We take time out to recognize the people that made the ultimate sacrifice."

WAA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992 when his organization -- Worcester Wreath in Maine -- found itself with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering a moving boyhood experience at Arlington National Cemetery, Worcester seized on it as an opportunity to honor the country’s veterans.

With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, Worcester arranged for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery that had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year. A number of other individuals and organizations stepped up to help, including a local trucking company that transported the wreaths to Virginia, volunteers from local American Legion and VFW Posts and members of the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C. who helped make wreaths and organized laying them.

The event continued quietly each year until 2005, when a photo of gravestones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet. The event drew national attention and expanded to thousands of other locations where the Arlington ceremonies were emulated.

The Arlington wreath-laying is still held annually, on the second or third Saturday of December. WAA's annual pilgrimage from Harrington, Maine, to Arlington National Cemetery has become known as the world’s largest veterans’ parade, stopping at schools, monuments, veterans’ homes and communities all along the way to remind people how important it is to remember, honor and teach about the contributions of those who served their country in war time.


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