By L. Cunningham, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 20, 2019
Members of Team Offutt carry wreaths to the base cemetery at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Dec. 11, 2019. The wreaths were placed at the end of each headstone row in preparation for an annual Wreaths Across America ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by L. Cunningham)
A wreath leans on a headstone at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Dec. 14, 2019. Wreaths were placed on each headstone and eight ceremonial wreaths honored the four armed services, the Coast Guard, the Merchant Marines, POW/MIA, and the 22 veterans and active duty service members who take their lives each day. (U.S. Air Force by L. Cunningham)
A Team Offutt volunteer smiles as he carries wreaths to the base cemetery, at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Dec. 11, 2019. Volunteers helped unload 86 boxes of wreaths that were delivered by a semi truck in preparation for a Wreaths Across America ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by L. Cunningham)
Staff Sgt. Daniel Thrower, Heartland of America Band, plays Taps during a National Wreaths Across America Ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Dec. 14, 2019. The ceremony was held in remembrance of those who gave their lives, and to honor those who currently serve in our armed forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by L. Cunningham)
Christine Stewart, Offutt Officer’s Spouses Club co-chair, speaks during a National Wreaths Across America Ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., Dec. 14, 2019. The WAA is a non-profit organization that lays wreaths at more than 1,200 veteran cemeteries across the country and overseas on National Wreath Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by L. Cunningham)
The annual Wreaths Across America ceremony was held Dec. 14, 2019, at the base cemetery here.
Wreaths now lean on each headstone, with eight ceremonial wreaths on easels prominently placed at the front of the cemetery, honoring the four armed services, the Coast Guard, the Merchant Marines, POW/MIA and a newly integrated wreath that honors the 22 veterans and active duty service members who take their lives each day.
Before the ceremony, a delivery was made by a Dec. 11. Eager to deliver 86 boxes, each weighing nearly 40 pounds and containing nine wreaths, the driver parked his semi truck and approached the trailer to begin unloading.
Rick Adams, an Arkansas native, opened the trailer doors and all he could see were pallets of boxes. After climbing into the trailer, he began to move boxes, but it wasn’t long before one of the many volunteers climbed in to help. Just like in Santa’s workshop, an assembly line formed: open a box, unload the wreaths, move the wreaths up the hill to the cemetery.
“I put my name on a volunteer list, and this is the first time I’ve been called. I absolutely love it,” said Adams. “The program’s motto is to remember, honor and teach what this all represents. I really think it’s important to teach it to the youth.”
The day of the WAA ceremony, there was a cold wind blowing across the cemetery, while the temperatures reached a high of 17 degrees. Some Offutt Officer’s Spouses Club members were arranging last minute details, while wreaths laid in preparation at the end of each row of headstones and large easels stood empty at the head of the cemetery.
First to arrive was the ceremonial bugler, but soon you could see families, all bundled up in their winter gear, fill the area. When the eight ceremonial wreath layers arrived, the weather began to change, and the cold wind brought small, fast moving snowflakes.
To commence the ceremony, Staff Sgt. Daniel Thrower, Heartland of America Band, began to play “To the Colors” on his bugle. When the notes stopped, every guest was asked to join in a moment of silence to remember the fallen and the POW/MIA, and to honor those who have served and are currently serving in this nation’s armed services.
During this moment, you could hear the wind softly blowing through the trees and the noise of traffic in the distance. You could see the people attending the ceremony bow their heads in reverence of those lost in service to our country. You could smell the fresh pine from the wreaths, and feel the chill from the falling snowflakes.
Christine Stewart, OOSC co-chair, spoke at the ceremony about living in a society made up of people from different walks of life and about those who gave their lives and now rest in many cemeteries throughout our nation.
“The United States of America was founded on the ideals of freedom, justice and equality for all. Our nation stands as a beacon of liberty and freedom to the world,” said Stewart. “We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free; we shall not forget you. We shall remember not only their sacrifice, but their lives.”
Offutt AFB Cemetery has been a part of the WAA program since Nov. 2018, due to the efforts of the OOSC. The WAA is a non-profit organization that lays wreaths at more than 1,200 veteran cemeteries across the United States and overseas during the holidays.
For more information visit https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/pages/159012/Overview