JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst community members, Thomas B. McGuire Foundation members and New Jersey State Police officers gathered to celebrate Memorial Day at the 30th annual Parade of Wreaths May 23, 2013, at Tommy B’s Community Activities Center here.
Service members and community members congregate at JB MDL and present wreaths annually to pay homage to fallen heroes in addition to service members past and present.
Participants in the ceremony laid wreaths as a tribute to those who gave their lives in service to our country. Service members from all branches of the armed forces, retirees, family members and local police officers placed more than 30 wreathes in front of the stage in Tommy B’s.
State police played bagpipes and drums to kick off the ceremony. An elementary choir sang once the state police finished playing their music. Capt. Douglas Hess, 87th Air Base Wing chaplain, gave the invocation during which he asked the audience members to keep past and present service members in mind this holiday.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno then introduced herself and spoke on the importance of Memorial Day and what it meant to her personally.
“It means a lot to speak to service members today as a mother of a man in uniform and as a leader of a state that is home to about 430,000 veterans,” said Guadagno. “Today is meant to commemorate those who gave everything for their country. We lost five from New Jersey last year and must never forget their sacrifices.”
Guadagno’s speech preceded two children’s Memorial Day essay readings. Toby Wilderotter, fifth-grade essay contest winner from Upper Elementary School, and Lanie Lissner, sixth-grade winner, wrote about the topic the cost of freedom.
“I myself am in a military family,” said Wilderotter in his essay. “It’s heart-breaking every time I see my dad go knowing he could come back badly injured or never make it back at all.”
Wilderotter’s words rang throughout the audience sparking different emotions in each person. Staff Sgt. Douglas Wilderotter, 605th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aerospace maintenance craftsman, is Toby’s father.
“The children’s essays touched me the most,” said Leah Arter, Burlington County freeholder. “Listening to their perspective on service was moving and insightful, especially since military service has affected them personally.”
The two essay winners finished reading before accepting the first symbolic wreath which the Tommy B. McGuire Foundation sponsored.
“I felt pride for my service and the military as a whole when I presented my wreath,” said Pfc. Damaris Guerrero-Garcia, supply administrative assistant with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 49.
The 29 remaining wreath bearers walked from the rear of the ballroom to the stage when called to lay their wreaths. The JB MDL Honor Guard proceeded with a three-volley rifle salute and the playing of "Taps."
“It’s an honor to attend such a great ceremony,” said Edward Miller, Air Force retired senior master sergeant. “The ceremony evoked memories of the friends I lost through my 28 years of service to my country. I will always keep them in mind.”