The Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association spearheaded efforts to honor veterans and their families at the holidays by laying wreaths on the graves of fallen heroes. Pennsylvania’s ceremony took place on December 5th in the Capitol Rotunda, with Senator Baker joining the Adjutant General and other dignitaries in providing remarks to thank and remember our military and their families. Several funeral directors and veterans from the 20th Senatorial District were present for the ceremony, thanks to the efforts of Coroner Tom Kukuchka and Benjamin Sheldon.
Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman, Morrill Worcester, in 1992. Its mission, Remember, Honor, Teach, is carried out in part by coordinating wreath laying ceremonies on the second Saturday of December at Arlington, as well as veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.
Senator Baker offered the following remarks as part of the ceremony:
A wreath is more than just a festive holiday decoration. Throughout history, wreaths have represented victory, eternity and life itself. Today’s wreaths represent these ancient meanings and so much more.
They symbolize a form of victory: victory over the threats to democracy, victory over the enemies of freedom. They also symbolize eternity, because we as proud Americans are eternally grateful for the victories secured by our veterans.
These wreaths are one simple way to show our veterans how deeply we value their sacrifice and how reverently we remember them.
Seeing grave after grave marked with a wreath, in cemetery after cemetery, is a powerful sight. So many lives lost, but so much gratitude endures.
Laying a wreath upon a veteran’s grave at the holidays shows how much veterans, and all members of the military and their families, remain a part of our homes and hearts. At the holidays, when family and friends traditionally come together to celebrate, the absence of a loved one can be especially painful.
At holiday dinner tables across our nation, there will be empty chairs.
Some of the missing are doing their duty in war zones or on peace-keeping missions. Some may be in hospitals or rehab facilities overcoming the wounds of wars. Others are older veterans who are passing away at a heartbreaking rate. Still others came home with an American flag draped over them.
We must continue to honor and remember these heroes.
It is because of the enduring sacrifice of these brave men and women that we can enjoy the holidays with our loved ones and live every day as free citizens in a free nation.
The freedom they fought for–and often died for— rings strong, in communities large and small.
As a token of our gratitude to our veterans, we should all make a supreme effort to reach out to military families. We should pay a visit to a veterans’ home or send a meal to the military family down the street. Thank them for their sacrifice. Help to ease their loneliness, heartache and worry.
As we lay these wreaths, our appreciation mirrors the devotion of our military and family members. As a circle with no beginning and no end, these wreaths are a symbol of endless honor, and endless appreciation.
At a time when we sing about comfort and joy, let’s continue to pray for peace on earth. And thank you, veterans, for the ultimate gift: freedom.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson