Wreaths Across America honors U.S. veterans for their sacrifices


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Larence Kirby, executive director of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, placed a wreath on the new Gulf War Memorial on Monday. (Delaware State News/Arshon Howard)

DOVER — Remember, honor and teach.

Those were the words echoed throughout the Delaware General Assembly’s second annual Wreaths Across America ceremony at Legislative Hall Monday morning.

Wreaths Across America is an organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1991.

The organization’s mission is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies each December at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia as well as at hundreds of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states.

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William Farley, vice chairman of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, was accompanied by fourth grade Holy Cross students Julia Novack, left and Claire Juneau, right, as he placed a wreath on the Medal of Honor Memorial on Monday morning. (Delaware State News/Arshon Howard)

Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said he had mixed emotions about the ceremony.

“During this holiday season most of us are celebrating,” he said. “But some of these families are left with empty seats at dinner tables with only memories.”

Arlington National Cemetery’s story began during the American Civil War when the body of Pvt. William Christman of the Union Army was buried next to the Potomac River on May 13, 1864.

The land was part of the estate inherited by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s wife, Mary Custis Lee, from her father, George Washington Parke Custis.

Today, the cemetery spans 624 acres serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families.

“The circle of rich green is the color of life,” Sen. Ennis said. “The red bow represents passion, courage and sacrifice. I hope we never forget those that gave so much.”

The wreaths were laid at three locations: The Dover Light Infantry Memorial by Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, adjutant general of the Delaware National Guard; the World War II Memorial by World War II veteran Cornelius C. “Bill” Carroll; and the Medal of Honor Memorial by William C. Farley, vice chairman of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs.

“It’s a service that really focuses on remembering, honoring and teaching us all about the sacrifices of our fallen,” Maj. Gen. Vavala said.

The ceremony also acknowledged Delaware Day. Since 1933, the governors of Delaware have proclaimed Dec. 7 as Delaware Day to honor the day in 1787 when Delaware became the first state to ratify the federal Constitution.

Larence Kirby, executive director of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, placed a wreath on the new Gulf War Memorial.

“These wreaths represent the sacrifices of veterans,” Mr. Kirby said. “Not just combat veterans, but all who’ve served that are no longer with us.

“Their spirit reminds me of the mission for Wreaths Across America, which is to remember the fallen and to teach our children the value of freedom,” he added

“By gathering here today, I can say it’s a mission that’s complete because we are doing our part to bond as a nation in need of healing, so we can have a positive impact across America.”

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