News: Soldiers, veterans, family members honor the fallen
Story by Sgt. Raymond Boyington
FORT DEVENS, Mass. – Soldiers, members of Veterans of Foreign Wars District 15 and the Disabled American Veterans organization, and families of the fallen gathered at the Fort Devens Cemetery Dec. 14, 2013, to place wreaths on veterans’ graves as a part of Wreaths Across America.
The program follows a three-part mission: to remember veterans who have passed, honor their service, and teach others their history.
“What [volunteers] try to do is have enough wreaths to cover each of the veterans' grave sites,” said Richard Nielen, the acting deputy commander of the installation. The people go out and put the wreaths on the graves. It makes it a little more personal when you're out there and know the veterans you're taking care of.
More than 300 locations nation-wide hold wreath-laying ceremonies, including Arlington National Cemetery. However, not every cemetery is able to give such individual attention as there are not enough volunteers for larger cemeteries.
“We're not a huge cemetery,” said Nielen. “We're still small enough so that we can do something like that.”
This was the second time that Fort Devens conducted the ceremony. The program was initiated by the Fort Devens commander, Lt. Col. Steven F. Egan.
“It was Lt. Col. Egan that got the program going,” said Nielen. The idea came from discussions with other post commanders and was spread by word of mouth. He thought it was a good idea and the fort implemented its first ceremony last year.
Last year’s ceremony had approximately 30 guests with about 70 donated wreaths, said Nielen. This year, the number of people was doubled and the number of wreaths was tripled. “It was a good turnout.”
Each wreath-laying ceremony has special meaning to its participants.
“For me, it's honoring the people that have gone before you,” said Nielen. “It's one more way to honor them and keep the tradition going. You want to remember the service of the people that came before you, honor them, and then teach other people about it.”
For more information on Wreaths Across America, visit its website at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.