Wreaths Across America 2009 AAR

I will limit my comments on the Wreaths Across America event at Woodlands Cemetery to the actual ceremony, participants and the days.
Dr.  Francis Keith, COL USAR, Ret, of the IASSAR has been the chairman and driving force behind this program at Woodlands for the past couple of years and is better suited to discuss the actual mechanics.

The WAA ceremony is always held the 2nd Saturday of December at 11:00 AM CST.  This is the exact same time for all 400 locations from Maine to California.
Since Central Iowa was hit with one of the most extreme blizzards in a generation (16” of snow and 50 mph winds in Clive, Iowa) in the days just prior to our planned event, I did receive some calls questioning if we would proceed.

To the credit of the members of the Iowa Rifles, the IASSAR and the Civil Air Patrol and other invited groups all willingly agreed that the ceremony should go on regardless of the conditions.

A visit to the entrance of the cemetery, 24 hours prior to the scheduled event showed that it was completely blocked and had yet to have the snow cleared.

It was also about that time that we realized that the wreaths to be laid on the veterans graves were still somewhere between Maine and Iowa.

In spite of all the challenges upon arriving at the cemetery a few minute before 10:00 AM I was pleased to see that Dr. Keith of the IASSAR and David Thompson of the Iowa Rifles were already present and organizing what needed to be done.

Within minutes, Sgts.D. Krock, R. Rittel, Corp. D. Rittel and their spouses Tammie, Marilyn and Mary arrived.  They were followed shortly by Cadet Members of the Civil Air Patrol, GLEN ALLEN THATCHER-CHILCOTE, Lt Col, CAP,  Volley Smith from the IASSAR Board of managers, news and film crews from channels 5 and 13 and others from the community.

All present quickly jumped in to place flags, shovel snow, organize agenda and in all ways make the program possible, memorable.

Special thanks must go to Corp Dan Rittel of the Iowa Rifles for quickly procuring a beautiful wreath to symbolically lie at the G.A.R. monument.

The Ceremony started with the ringing of a replica of the Liberty bell on a beautiful wooden stand draped in black silk (all prepared, delivered and coordinated by Sgt. Danny Krock and Tammie Krock).  At precisely 11:00AM CST the Civil Air Patrol presented the Colors and then led the attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mike Rowley asked for 1 minute of silence to remember the veterans and then proceeded with the opening remarks as well as the reason and importance of the remembering those veterans who have served.

Dr. Francis Keith shared with us all of the story of those at Valley Forge that Christmas Day in 1776 and challenged  each of us to feel the cold tingling in our hands try to imagine for just a moment how it must have felt when multiplied many times over by those soldiers so long ago.  Col. Keith then told the crowd that Governor Culver had proclaimed Dec 12 as WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA DAY in Iowa.  The governor had also sent a beautiful proclamation that was read aloud.

Each attendee was encouraged to stop at a veterans final resting place, remember their name and do some research to discover a bit more about these people that sacrificed much to give us the liberty we all enjoy today.

The ceremony ended with the ringing of the bell by Sgts. Krock and Thompson once every 3 seconds for each known veteran buried in Woodland Cemetery. 

One final item of note.  After the ceremony I saw a young man in his 20’s with two small children about 3 and 4 years of age (his wife and baby were keeping warm in their car).  He came up to ask if he could take a photo.  I asked him what brought him out here on a cold morning with his entire family.  He told me that he was from Louisiana and that these types of ceremonies were quite common, then he went on to share that his cousin had been killed in Iraq in 2007 and he felt it was important to remember her by participating today.  It kind of made me proud that we did not cancel the event due to some “inconveniences” we had faced.

A link to the video from the 6 & 10 PM WOI Channel 5 news can be seen here go to the small screen on the left and click on the 2nd box from the left just below it.  When the cursor is on it will say, “Ceremony Marches on..”   At this time I have not yet located the link to the WHO TV Channel 13 news video that appeared on the 6 & 10 PM news Dec. 12, 2009.

Mike Rowley

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