BEAUFORT, S.C. -More than 100 volunteers from the Tri-Command and the surrounding communities endured heavy rain showers, as they showed their support for veterans past and present by laying wreaths on tombstones at the Beaufort National Cemetery, Dec. 14.
The ceremony began at noon to coincide with the laying of the wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Each year roughly 850 ceremonies take place nationally and overseas, each holding a moment of silence all at the same time. Since it began in 1992, WAA has donated more than 1.3 million wreaths to cemeteries in the U.S. and abroad to honor America’s fallen.
“It was eye opening,” said Navy Seaman Courtney Anders, a rifle bearer for the Naval Hospital Beaufort Color Guard. “I got to see that a lot of people care enough to come out regardless of the weather, and help lay wreaths. There was also a lot of participation from the community. It really showed me how much they support the military, veterans of the past and present, and their families.”
Beaufort National Cemetery is the final resting place for an estimated 20,000 service members. The cemetery contains veterans of every conflict between the Civil War and Afghanistan.
“While reading the tombstones [I was] in awe,” said David Edwards, the director of WAA for Beaufort National Cemetery. “Many of these men and women have received awards for going above and beyond to protect their fellow brothers and sisters in arms and their country. Some of these veterans have served in two or even three wars. There is even a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient buried here.”
Pfc. Ralph Johnson, a deceased reconnaissance scout, was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, after passing away, March 5, 1968, during Operation Rock near the Quan Duc Valley, Republic of Vietnam. Johnson’s 15-man reconnaissance patrol was attacked. When a hand grenade landed in the fighting hole he shared with fellow Marines, he yelled a warning and immediately hurled his body over the explosive charge. Absorbing the full impact of the blast, he was killed instantly. He is now buried in Beaufort National Cemetery.
“It’s men and women like Johnson that draw me here,” Edwards said. “But it’s every veteran that I come to thank. I come to honor them and their families by organizing this event and laying the wreaths myself. They all deserve our thanks. It’s my way of thanking them, remembering them, and wishing them a Merry Christmas.”