(Honolulu) Twelve-hundred and eighty-eight red-bowed wreaths decorate Veterans' graves at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl this season. The large donation was made possible by the Wreaths Across America campaign.
Each year thousands of Veteran's graves and memorials across the country are decorated by volunteers who place them at 131 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national cemeteries, state Veterans cemeteries, and at Arlington National Cemetery and memorial sites. Members of the Hawaii Civil Air Patrol, the 66th Composite Squadron, adorned this year's grave sites.
Eleven Civil Air Patrol members and volunteers from the Hickam Composite Squadron placed wreaths at 1,246 grave sites of veterans in the center of the National Memorial of the Pacific.
"It was an honor to participate in the Wreaths Across America ceremony." Cadet Samuel Ramil, mentioned, "Each wreath laid reminded me of the sacrifice's of our nation's service members."
For four years Civil Air Patrol has been a proud partner with Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit organization that recognizes the courage and sacrifices of U.S. veterans by placing wreaths on the graves of the fallen during the holiday season.
This year's wreath laying ceremony on December 4th at the National Memorial of the Pacific Cemetery at Punchbowl was the first Wreath Laying Ceremony for Punchbowl Cemetery and O'ahu as a part of the Wreaths Across America campaign.
Captain Skyler Ross of the Hickam Civil Air Patrol noted, "Standing in Punchbowl Cemetery and seeing all of the gravestones reminded me of the freedoms these veterans fought for. Every time I laid a wreath, I would read the name of each veteran's gravestone and be grateful for the honor to recognize them for their service and sacrifice."
"This is one of the most beautiful events repeated across the country as thousands of volunteers honor our Nation's heroes," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "It is inspiring to see the volunteers show their respect and gratitude for the Veterans who served our Nation."
Last year approximately 161,000 wreaths and more than 100,000 volunteers participated in activities. This marks the fifth year of the nationwide event.
Most of the wreaths are donated by individuals, groups and businesses that purchase them through the Wreaths Across America (WAA) program, created and run by the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, which is donating at least seven wreaths to every VA national cemetery - representing the branches of the military services. Civil Air Patrol units are arranging brief ceremonies at many locations.
The company began donating leftover wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery in 1992 and in 2006 began the WAA program, supplying some wreaths to all VA national cemeteries and many state Veterans cemeteries. The WAA Web site has been used by hundreds of people to "sponsor" wreath placement. Other people have purchased wreaths locally and place them at grave sites themselves.
For more information about Wreaths Across America, visit its Web site, http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.
ALSO: The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl
Opens Today for Holiday Displays
If you'd like to bring down a special floral display for your loved one at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, you may do so from today, December 20th until December 30th from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm daily. Cemetery officials ask that ONLY small potted plants and artificial florals be displayed with NO large Christmas trees allowed.