Veterans remembered at Harrington cemetery

A young military service cadet helps place a wreath during Harrington’s Wreaths Across America ceremony as members of the local Young Marines Color Guard keep a watchful eye on the crowd Saturday morning. (Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik)

HARRINGTON — Three generations of the Spence family were among a crowd of at least 100 community members who gathered Saturday morning at Hollywood Cemetery in Harrington to lay wreaths on the graves of veterans from around the area.

Their journey to the cemetery became a family reunion of sorts as they stepped up to the grave of one Civil War veteran in particular.

“My aunt just told me this last night, that he was buried here,” Karen Spence began to explain about her family member, Robert H. Thomas. The veteran served in the Civil War from 1861-1865. He would go on to live into the early 1900s in the Andersonville area just outside of Harrington.

Veteran Melvin Miller of Harrington salutes a fellow veteran while laying a wreath on his grave with granddaughter Madison Melvin, daughter in law Katie Melvin and grandson Greyson Melvin.

Ms. Spence, her husband Frank Spence, daughter Lisa Jernigan and granddaughter Kelsie Jernigan worked together Saturday morning to place a wreath on Mr. Thomas’ grave in honor of his military service through the Wreaths Across America program, assisted locally by the Harrington Historical Society and other local organizations.

“This is great because we can pass it on to the children so they know their heritage,” Ms. Spence said.

The Miller family was also among those laying wreaths and enjoying a morning of heritage and pride thanks to an invitation from their 4-H group.

“My granddaughter called and said, ‘Poppop, do you want to go and put wreaths out with us?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely.’ Because I am a veteran,” Melvin Miller of Harrington said. “I think it’s good, especially for the younger generation to understand, you know, get a feel for it. And as they get older, they can understand the sacrifices that were made. We live in the greatest country in the world and it didn’t come free.”

Before wreaths were laid on graves throughout the cemetery Saturday, Doug Poore of the Harrington Historical Society led a ceremony to explain the event which included color guard members from the airbase in Dover and the Young Marines in Clayton, and volunteers who laid ceremonial wreaths on crosses in the center of the cemetery.

“Right now across the country, more than 2,100 memorial sites, like this one, are gathered as one nation to remember, honor and teach. We are all proud to be Americans that live in a free society made up of many people from many walks of life. The freedoms we enjoy today have not come without a price. Lying here before us in the cemetery and cemeteries throughout the world are men and women who gave their lives so we could live in freedom and without fear,” Mr. Poore said.

“We can worship as we see fit. We can raise our children to believe as we do. We can travel from one end of the country to the other and not have to ask for permission to go. We are free to vote for whomever we feel should be in government office with no explanation needed. We have the right to succeed and we have the right to fail in whatever endeavor we wish to pursue. The United States of America was founded on the ideals of freedom, justice and equality. Our nation stands the shining beacon of liberty and freedom to the world. We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free and we shall not forget you. We shall remember.”

Wreaths placed in Hollywood Cemetery and others around the country, like Williamsville Cemetery in Houston, were sponsored by local community members and businesses. For more information about Wreaths Across America, visit the organization online at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/.

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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