Special to the Register
The Civil Air Patrol’s Texoma Composite Squadron hosted the 2012 Wreaths Across America Remembrance Ceremony in mid-December at Cedarlawn Memorial Park in Sherman.
Activities began with members assembling at the squadron building in Denison to load cartons containing 200 wreaths and other equipment into vehicles for the trip to Cedarlawn. Upon arriving at the cemetery everyone moved into action, performing their assigned tasks with both enthusiasm and reverence, always mindful of the ceremony’s purpose.
While the Color Guard practiced, the remainder of the squadron set about the tasks of placing wreaths on graves and preparing the area for the ceremony.
Placing a wreath is a solemn process – the wreath is gently placed in front of the grave marker, then a step is taken back, a snap to attention, and a salute is rendered. Repeated 200 times without fail, each wreath and its veteran received the same honors.
As the morning progressed toward the ceremony’s start time, the weather became a concern. Although the skies were clear a moderate wind continued to blow, threatening to knock over anything that wasn’t tied down. The decision was made to have the Color Guard stay after posting the colors to hold the flagpoles steady in their stands; in addition, Cadets were stationed at each of the stands for the ceremonial wreaths to prevent them from being blown over. In addition to ensuring nothing would fall, the presence of so many Cadets resulted in a very impressive display.
The ceremony began promptly at 11am with an opening statement by Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Jeff Harrell and the posting of the colors. Following the Pledge of Allegiance and an invocation by Squadron Chaplain Lt. Col. Robert Sholl, the placing of ceremonial wreaths began. There were seven in all, six for the branches of service (Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines) and one representing over 90,000 soldiers who were last listed as prisoners of war or missing in action and have never returned home.
Following the ceremonial wreaths came an addition to this year’s ceremony. Two Cadets – Cadet Airman Basic Michael Brazie and Cadet 1st Lt. Mollie Flood, the squadron’s Cadet Commander – performed readings from the writings of soldiers from years past. Cadet Brazie read a passage from the chaplain of a ship as it was returning home at the end of World War II, reflecting on the service and sacrifices of the men on board during the many months of fighting at sea. Cadet Flood then read a poem that had been written by a soldier while he was imprisoned in a North Vietnamese POW camp which he recited daily to keep his spirits up.
After closing remarks and retiring of the colors, the ceremony was ended. Squadron members approached veterans in attendance to shake hands and give out thank-you cards in recognition of their service.
Several of the veterans attending the ceremony stepped forward to ask why there were no wreaths on the majority of the graves. As Lt. Col. Harrell explained to one individual, “Wreaths are sponsored by the public – by individuals, families, and businesses. The more local sponsorships that are purchased, the more wreaths we receive. Our goal is to be able to place a wreath on every veteran’s grave in Cedarlawn, but with only 200 sponsored each of the last two years we still have a long way to go.”
But, regardless of whether we receive 200, 2000, or only 2 wreaths, this squadron and everyone else in Civil Air Patrol will always honor and respect all of our veterans and their families, both for their service and their sacrifices to protect the freedoms we all too often take for granted.
For more information about Texoma Composite Squadron, please call (903) 786-6227 or visit www.captexoma.org.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 61,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to nearly 27,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 71 years. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. Visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com or www.capvolunteernow.com