Three local cemeteries had wreaths placed on veterans' graves this year.
Remember. Honor. Teach.
These are the cornerstones of Wreaths Across America. Remember the nation’s fallen soldiers, honor veterans and teach youth the importance of their freedoms and those that fought to protect them. Over 2,557 locations throughout the world conducted wreath-laying ceremonies to honor over 1.8 million veterans of the United States' military branches on Dec. 19.
Three Ormond Beach cemeteries were home to full wreath-laying ceremonies. Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1048 President Bob Adkins presided over the ceremony conducted at Oak Ridge Cemetery.
“We take this seriously," Adkins said. "All of the names on that board are Vietnam veterans who died in action and are from Volusia County. They are from here. They went to Mainland High School, Seabreeze High School.”
Part of the ceremony includes placing wreaths on all of the fallen soldiers’ tombstones. In Oak Ridge, there is one grave that is unique and not that of a veteran. It is that of a slave whose bones were found on the shores of the Tomoka State Park. Her final resting place is in this cemetery alongside the veterans.
“We know she’s not a vet but we are going to put a wreath with her anyway," said Diana Schaack, associates of Vietnam Veterans representative. "We have cleaned that headstone and now you can read her 'name,' Miss Tomoka.”
Dee Clark, coordinator for the Capt. James Ormond Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, kicked off the Hillside Cemetery ceremony at 10 a.m. with a moment of silence to pay homage to those that served this nation. DAR Regent and United States Army Veteran Lee Thornton addressed the crowd.
“The freedoms we enjoy today have not come without a price," she said. "Lying here before us and in cemeteries throughout this nation are men and women who gave their lives so that we can live in freedom.”
Mayor Bill Partington and Councilwoman Heather Post followed Thornton’s emotionally delivered speech. Partington expressed his gratitude.
“I want to recognize the people who volunteer; a dedicated group of volunteers, that keep up this beautiful Hillside Cemetery park year round,” Partington said.
He also presented Thornton with a proclamation referencing the WAA theme for 2020, “Be an American Worth Fighting For," based on former Marine infantryman Staff Sgt. Daniel Strong’s keynote to Monty Tech students in 2018.
Taps played by musician Bree’Shawn Watson wafted throughout the cemetery. Over 200 wreaths were placed on gravesites by volunteers from all over Volusia County at Hillside Cemetery alone but there were six remaining wreaths to be placed.
Gethsemane Cemetery is of historical note with the oldest legible gravestone dated 1881. Most of the headstones are handmade adding to the sense of intimacy. Erlene Turner, a member of the Ormond Beach Historical Society, reached out to DAR to ask for assistance restoring the cemetery and getting involved with the WAA. Their help led to the donation of 30 bags of mulch by Lowe’s of Ormond Beach along with hours of mowing, weeding, trimming and overall cleaning by members and their families.