Wreaths Across America to place wreaths Dec. 17 – Macomb Daily

Mario Jimenez, an Air National Guardsman, said people in the New Baltimore area are always shocked to learn that there are more than 600 military veterans buried in two small cemeteries in the city.

He and Jason Whitus, a U.S. Army veteran, are the coordinators of the annual Wreaths Across America in the New Baltimore area to place wreaths on all 600 graves in St. Louis. Mary and Oakwood Cemeteries in a ceremony at noon 17. St. Mary’s Cemetery 36105 24 mile Road.

2021 Wreaths Across America in St.  Mary's Cemetery, New Baltimore (PHOTO SUBMITTED BY ANNE NICOLAZZO)
2021 Wreaths Across America in St. Mary’s Cemetery, New Baltimore (PHOTO SUBMITTED BY ANNE NICOLAZZO)

Jimenez said it’s a true community effort with service clubs, veterans posts, city officials, Selfridge Air National Guard Base — and residents who aren’t affiliated with any of them, but who just want to pay their respects.

People came out in force for a recent pasta dinner held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Lempke-Blackwell Post 7573.

“We raised over $3,000 that night alone and an additional $500 in 50-50 raffles,” Jimenez said. “Their success is a testament to our community. City officials and first responders came out and supported us.

The program includes speakers, a possible flyover, and tributes to soldiers who were prisoners of war or missing in action.

“We expect about 400 people. They come because of word-of-mouth,” said Jiménez. “It seems like everybody’s talking about it. I’ve heard it at the grocery store, at church. A lot of people are excited about the opportunity to honor veterans. It’s great to see. There’s strong support for the military in the greater Anchor Bay area. When I ride through subdivision itself, there are flags everywhere, including the POW-MIA flag. But as we move away from the conflict, the younger generation becomes detached. That’s why we join schools in Wreaths Across America.

People carry wreaths
2021 Wreaths Across America in St. Mary’s Cemetery, New Baltimore (PHOTO SUBMITTED BY ANNE NICOLAZZO)

He said the Anchor Bay High School ROTC is involved, and he and Whitus are actively involved in scouting troops and as many faith organizations as they can join. The plan is for the elementary school choir to sing the national anthem.

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Wreaths Across America Day is a huge undertaking, from Arlington National Cemetery, to veteran cemeteries located in all 50 states, to local cemeteries, at sea, and overseas – about 2,800 locations in all. WAA’s goal is to “remember, honor and teach about veterans in cemeteries, monuments and parks.”

wreaths at the grave
2021 Wreaths Across America in St. Mary’s Cemetery, New Baltimore (PHOTO SUBMITTED BY ANNE NICOLAZZO)

See wreathsacrossamerica.org for a list of all cemeteries and their event organizers.

wreaths at the grave
2021 Wreaths Across America in St. Mary’s Cemetery, New Baltimore (PHOTO SUBMITTED BY ANNE NICOLAZZO)

Wreaths come as balsam boughs, shaped, and hand-tied with red velvet bows at the Worchester Wreath Company in Maine. They arrive at the hands of volunteers who say the names of veterans before they lay wreaths on their graves on what is called the winter Memorial Day.

Wreaths are sold online for $15 each. Many groups donate money and sponsor wreaths at specific cemeteries, even specific cemeteries, if arranged early enough. Nonprofit groups can sell wreaths and earn money for their own programs. That includes Blue Star Mothers Blue Water Chapter 180, and Knights of Columbus 4th Degree Assembly 2599, supporting Cadillac Memorial Gardens in Clinton Township.

Some of the groups that sponsor wreaths at Resurrection Cemetery include American Heritage Girls, AMVETS Post 121, and Eastern Michigan WOW American Chapter of Rosie the Riveters.

Karen Straffon has been the WAA coordinator at Resurrection, at 18201 Clinton River Road, Clinton Township for many years.

American Legion Post 4 Honor Guard led out the program at noon on December 17 at the veterans honor section. Piper is Jim Lyon, and a participant of the 4 Degree Knights of Columbus, and World War II Re-enactors from the Michigan Military Technical & Historical Society.

Lyon is a Vietnam veteran, having served in the US Army as an infantryman, among other jobs.

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He learned to play the bagpipes at the age of 14 but put them aside for 35 years.

“I started playing the pipes again and have played for many funerals, memorials, weddings, golf events, and birthday parties in the last 15 years, as well as an annual event for Michigan’s paralyzed veterans,” he said.

Straffon said there will be a plaque presentation to Lyon and to the Mission BBQ restaurant in support of the military and vets.

Fallen Hero Confessions for Christopher Sroka of Warren who died in an apartment fire, just before he published. He was a wheeled vehicle mechanic in the 1st Cavalry Division. People described the young man as respectful, reserved and humble, selfless, and a dedicated soldier.

After guest speaker Col. Steven Carozza, Chief of Staff of the US Army TACOM, the laying of ceremonial wreaths took place. Carozza served with the 82nd Airborne Division in Germany, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. The first wreath placement on the grave was for World War II veteran Lawrence Walsh by his daughter Jennifer Hong, escorted by Carozza and re-enactors.

Representing the US Army at the ceremony were: former US Army command sergeant major Charlotte Randazzo – who now assists Straffon; US Navy Builder, Jeffrey Yoscovits; US Marine Corps retired staff sergeant, Rowdy Stillwell; US Merchant Marine Canada retired lieutenant colonel, Morris Brause; Chief Petty Officer of the US Coast Guard, Dominic Cain; US Air Force veteran airman first class, Wayne Whisman; and US Space Force staff sergeant, Brenda Scanlon.

Debbie Kallas of the Raising American Heroes Organization, and the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154 maintained the honor, conducting a ritual at the POW-MIA tablet with a wreath. Post 4 security guards closed the ceremony with a gun salute and a Tap.

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The last day to sponsor wreaths for the Great Lakes National Cemetery, 4200 Belford Road, Holly, Monday, November 28. Organizers hope it will teach children the value of freedom. The ceremony starts at 11. December 17. Parking is in the north parking lot of Ascension Genesys Hospital on Pollock Road, with free shuttle service. Parking at the cemetery is only for vehicles transporting people with disabilities. Visit facebook.com/WAAGLNC

The cleanup day to take down the wreaths is January 21.

Matt Hare and Mike McDougall are location coordinators for national cemeteries.

“We also operate a Matrix Expedited service,” Hare said. “Since 2015 we have participated in WAA and this year we will send three semi trucks to Maine to load wreaths for several cemeteries in Michigan, including Holly. While it would be great to see a wreath placed on each stone we know that is a tall order. last year 16,000 wreaths were placed at Holly, all through private donations. Our goal this year is 20,000. See wreathsacrossamerica.org/pages/150460

The volunteer Great Lakes National Cemetery Advisory Council says the number of cemeteries as of October is 57,832 and that GLNC is the fifth most active cemetery in the VA system. The Advisory Board purchased wreaths for $250.


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