‘Wreaths Across America’ honors veterans

‘Wreaths Across America’ honors veterans

Color Guard members of Glenn A. Warner V.F.W. Post 1371 and American Legion Post 401 members gathered at the Veterans Memorial Park in Owego, N.Y. on Saturday, Dec. 13 to pay tribute to fallen heroes in honor of “Wreaths Across America” day. Also pictured are three members of the Bilbrey family; Gold Star Mother Barbara, Charles and Shannon, attended in honor and memory of their son and brother, Iraq War Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient Army Specialist Charles Bilbrey, Jr.

There is something special about a wreath, a circle with no end and made from living evergreens with the sweet fragrance of balsam. The act of placing the wreath, straightening the red bow, and taking a moment of silence is a living tribute to those who put it all on the line.

The holiday season is an especially poignant time, a time for traditional family get together. And there are many dinner tables with an empty seat, for those away serving to protect our freedoms and in some cases, for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. There is no more important gesture than to take our time amid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and remember how we come to enjoy and the great cost at which these freedoms are provided.

When you drive by a cemetery in Tioga, Bradford or Northern Susquehanna County and it does not have an evergreen wreath hanging at its main entrance, you may act on behalf of your church congregation and find a way to get a Christmas wreath there without delay.

When driving by a cemetery and you see wreaths are absent from veteran headstones, you take the initiative with a friend to get a wreath to remember a veteran this Christmas for his service and sacrifice.

The mission of Wreaths Across America during the holiday is to REMEMBER our fallen heroes, HONOR those who serve or are serving and TEACH our children that we are able to do so, in peace, because of the many sacrifices made by our military men and women.

Veterans from the Tioga County Marine Corps League, Veterans of Modern Warfare of Afghanistan and Iraq, Chapter 480 Vietnam Veterans of America, Tioga Post 401 American Legion and Ladies and Sons Auxiliaries and Glenn A. Warner Post 1371 Veterans of Foreign Wars and Men’s and Ladies Auxiliaries paused for a minute of silence at noon on Saturday at the Tioga County Veterans Memorial in the Courthouse Square.

They joined Gold Star Mothers and Families, veterans and patriotic citizens and placed wreaths at the Tioga County Veterans Memorial remembering Tioga County’s 172 Fallen Heroes from Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, World War II, World War I and thousands of Tioga County veterans who served and are serving this great nation’s armed forces. Also remembered were Prisoners of War and Missing in Action, especially those from Tioga County during the early Korean War days.

Bonnie Baker Duff, president of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War Tent 2, laid an evergreen wreath at the Tioga County Union Memorial in the Courthouse Square. Before the snow, an evergreen wreath was laid at the 80-grave Civil War Section in Historic Evergreen Cemetery. A private citizen placed a wreath on a stand at a Civil War gravesite.

The Rev. G. Terry Steenburg, senior pastor of Historic First Baptist Church of Owego, blessed the wreaths and offered the invocation and benediction.

The Honor Guard of the Glenn A. Warner Post 1371, Veterans of Foreign Wars, posted the colors. They especially remembered Korean War veteran and long time Honor Guard comrade Joe Ceurter of Berkshire who died last month. Joe is Past Commander of Post 1371, New York State Veteran of the Year, and a recipient of five Purple Hearts, two Silver Star Medals and two Bronze Star Medals.

Veterans from the Candor and Waverly American Legions and Waverly and Spencer Van Etten VFW Posts and their Men’s, Women’s, and Sons Auxiliaries were active throughout Tioga County. They laid wreaths at community war memorials and veteran graves.

In Waverly, Friends of Waverly Cemetery Preservation as well as village and town officials participated with veterans in ceremonies at the war memorials and four cemeteries. The Valley Honor Guard placed wreaths and used a rifle volley and taps at Glenwood, Factoryville / East Waverly, the Major Russell Kline War Memorial, St. James and Forest Home Cemeteries, the War Memorial at Muldoon Park and the Tank Memorial by the VFW on Broad Street. Waverly church bells rang at noon from St. James, First Presbyterian, Methodist and First Baptist.

Here are examples of how some residents participated.

In Windham, wreath laying at Windham Cemeteries was led by Sandra Murray who also encouraged her friends in nearby Warren Center and Little Meadows to do the same in their cemeteries.

Wreaths from Marnie Schrader and the Tioga County Seventh Day Adventist Church of Catatonk graced veteran graves at Broadway Cemetery on Day Hollow Road in the Town of Owego. Special remembrance was paid to WWII Navy Fighter Pilot Charles McHenry who was killed in action over Okinawa. His grandparents, the [Frank] McHenry’s were from Owego.

In Candor, Danielle Ingram placed 160 handmade wreaths at the Civil War graves in Maple Grove Cemetery. This year she’ll put service branch wreaths and illuminate them at the cemetery entrance on Route 96. Last year Brian Roberts of the Candor American Legion says he had a wreath display honoring veterans on his red barn on Spencer Road.

In Apalachin, Riverside Cemetery Trustee JoAnn Walters is encouraging the community to place wreaths on veteran graves in all cemeteries.

In the Town of Tioga, for the past 60 years regardless of weather, The Flats Gang on Christmas Day places a new American flag by a family evergreen wreath to remember Staff Sergeant Mario “Bucket” Panetti, killed on Christmas Day 1943 when his B-17 crashed in England.

Organizers thank all participants in the 2014 Wreaths Across America program in Tioga, Bradford and Northern Susquehanna Counties. More citizens say they will place wreaths on veteran graves before Christmas. A special thank you to the Ladies Auxiliary of the Glenn A. Warner Post 1371 Veterans of Foreign Wars who used money from selling gas cards at Thursday night VFW Bingo to again pay for wreaths honoring Fallen Heroes at the Tioga County Veterans Memorial.

“Don’t Say I Should Have. Say I Did” was the theme of the 23rd National Wreaths Across America Day in Tioga, Bradford, The Valley and Northern Susquehanna County and Saturday at noon at Arlington National Cemetery, 900 participation cemeteries in the United States and 25 veteran cemeteries on foreign soil. Past themes describe the meaning of the day: “Come With A Mission, Leave With A Memory,” “The Christmas They Never Had,” “In Honor Of Those Who Have To Spend A Holiday Away From Loved Ones,” and “In Memory Of Those Who Never Made It Home.”

For more information or to report activities in your community or suggestions, contact Glenn A. Warner Post 1371 Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Chairman Jim Raftis by email to jraftis2@stny.rr.com or by calling (607) 687-4229.

Click here to view more photos from “Wreaths Across America” in Tioga County.