Wreaths Across America took place last Saturday morning in Lucedale’s Magnolia Cemetery with good attendance and comfortable but chilly temperatures.
The second annual event was sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the City of Lucedale. Between 40 and 50 citizens attended the program and afterward helped lay wreaths among the tombstones. Approximately 500 deceased veterans rest in peace at Magnolia Cemetery. Of those, 156 received live green wreaths. Family members placed wreaths for specific graves; other wreaths were placed at varying veteran tombstones until all 156 were laid. An additional 72 wreaths were bought by family members for placement at other George County cemeteries.
Wreaths Across America has a three-fold mission: to remember the fallen, honor those who serve, and teach the next generation the value of freedom. Laying a wreath involves a moment of silence at the gravesite followed by speaking the veteran’s name in order to keep alive their memory.
Each wreath is hand-crafted of all-American balsam and hand-tied with a red velvet bow. The Lucedale event was one of 4,000 similar ceremonies that took place simultaneously Saturday across the United States. All the wreaths are made by the Worcester Wreath Company in Maine and delivered to participating cemeteries by volunteer truck drivers.
Jerry and April Goss coordinated the Lucedale event for the second year. The couple was acknowledged for their tireless work and dedication to making the event possible. April is a member of the local DAR Chapter, the Declaration of Independence Chapter. Other members of the local DAR chapter greeted attendees and helped with wreath fluffing and logistics. Mayor Doug Lee welcomed guests and led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance. Other representatives on hand from the City of Lucedale were Alderman-at-Large Louis Valentine and newly elected Ward 3 Alderman Brittany Fryfogle Green. Dana Nelson led the group in singing the Star-Spangled Banner.
The gazebo on the south side of the cemetery served as the focal point for the observance. Special wreaths were placed ceremoniously on stands behind the gazebo by local veterans as part of the program. Chancery Judge Mark Maples introduced these retired veterans and gave their service history. The veterans were Paul Parker, who served in the United States Air Force and the United States Army, Fred Roberts, who served in the United States Marine Corps, Lillie Sullivan, who served in the United States Air Force, William Sullivan, who served in the United States Air Force, Louis Valentine, who served in the United States Army, Jerry Goss, who served in the United States Coast Guard, Garland McLeod, who served in the United States Merchants Marines, and Bill Ziegler, who served in the United States Navy. Eric Howard, Twin Creek Fire Chief and Vice-President of the George County Fire Association, also assisted in the laying of special wreaths.
The branches identified with special wreaths included the United States Army, the United States Marine Corps, the United States Navy, the United States Air Force, the United States Space Force, the United States Coast Guard, and the United States Merchant Marines. Special wreaths were also placed in honor of the 93,129 United States servicemen from all branches of the service whose last known status was either prisoner of war or missing in action. Another special wreath was placed in honor of the local first responders and local law enforcement personnel.
Everett Warren played “Taps” at the conclusion of the program. The DAR hopes awareness of the annual event will spread and that all veteran graves in the cemetery will be remembered with a wreath in coming years. The national program began in 1992 when the Maine wreath company had a surplus of wreaths and donated the surplus to the Arlington National Cemetery. The idea grew into a concerted effort. The nationwide event occurs the third Saturday in December each year and the deadline to purchase wreaths is mid to late November.