The slogan for Wreaths across America – Remember, Honor and Teach was mentioned several times by various speakers at the annual Wreaths across America ceremonies held at the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Sparta.
Master of ceremonies John Harrigan of Vernon led the program held at high noon on December 14.
“There are approximately 1,100 memorial sites nationwide honoring those who served our nation. We place wreaths not to decorate their graves but to keep their memories alive,” said Harrigan, president of the Wallkill Valley Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1002.
Harrigan explained to the volunteers that as they place the wreath on the grave to say the veteran’s name aloud, again to keep the veteran’s memory alive.
The solemn group consisted of people from across the New Jersey and New York area as well as many youngsters in attendance. The group listened to the opening prayer by Mike DeFelise who stressed the value and price of freedom. Reflecting on the history of Wreaths across America, DeFelise made reference to the start of the program in Arlington Cemetery. Currently, Wreaths across America is a nationwide honoring in all 50 states.
A symbolic gun salute and the playing of Taps followed.
On hand were Miss America contestants Miss New Jersey Olivia Martin, Miss New York Emily Mahana and Miss North New Jersey Veronica Tullo. The young women all agreed that they were honored to volunteer in the Wreaths program and set an example for the children.
“I’m from Syracuse and we don’t have any ceremony in my hometown. I need to do something about that,” said Mahana.
A couple in attendance Chris and Patrice Boeckel from Essex Fells made it clear they absolutely needed to be at Saturday’s ceremony. Patrice’s mom was a Marine Staff Sergeant, her dad was in the Navy and the couple’s two sons are members of the National Guard.
Reiterating the words of John Harrigan, founder and president of the Wallkill Valley Vietnam Veterans, “When a soldier serves, the family serves.”