DANVILLE — Nothing can bring back the veterans who died in combat and the families can never be compensated for their loss. The least we can do, then, is to remember those who sacrificed their lives.
That’s the message that state Sen. Michael Hastings, D-19th District, will share Saturday at the annual Wreaths Across America ceremony.
“At Christmas, we should always remember the ones who gave their life for us,” he said in a telephone interview. “They died serving our country.”
Hastings will be the keynote speaker at the ceremony, which begins at 11 a.m. at the Danville National Ceremony, 1900 E. Main St.
About 4,113 wreaths will be placed on headstones. That number is down from last year’s record 5,900 wreaths, but local coordinator Tammy Williams is happy. “We did better than we expected,” she said.
Hastings said Wreaths Across America is important because it teaches us to remember and honor veterans, while teaching children about freedom.
“I believe in remembering the past so we don’t make the same mistakes in the future,” he said.
Hastings, a West Point graduate, served in the Army from July 1998 to 2008, serving in Iraq, Iran and Syria, and lost many dear friends in combat, he said. So, he knows the value of keeping their memories alive.
State Sen. Scott Bennett, D-52nd District, will introduce Hastings, whose district office is in Frankfort.
The ceremony will start with a welcome by Joseph Wheeler, operations supervisor at the Danville National Cemetery and Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield.
Master of ceremonies will be former Mayor Scott Eisenhauer; the American Legion Post 210 Honor Guard will present the colors; Kevin Cox with Corner Stone Christian Church will give the invocation; and Curt Kizer will sing the National Anthem.
At the beginning of the ceremony, weather permitting, a pilot will do a flyover.
The ceremonial wreaths will be presented by the Patriot Guard, American Legion Riders, Danville High School Junior ROTC cadets and the 342nd CBRN company of Urbana.
People will lay wreaths representing: the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and POW/MIA. There also will be a PTSD wreath in honor of the late Rick Dailey Sr., and a new wreath to honor those afflicted by Agent Orange.
Family members also will place wreaths in honor of fallen service men and women.
The ceremony will end with a benediction by Pastor Paul Rebert with First Baptist Church; Taps by Rick Dailey Jr. and Jerry Limp; and retiring of colors by the Post 210 Honor Guard.
The 457 boxes of wreaths arrived this week in two semi-trucks, which were given an escort by police, firefighters and motorcycles to the cemetery for storage.
ABOUT WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA
Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission — Remember, Honor, Teach — is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as at more than 1,200 veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.
Danville National Cemetery has almost 11,000 grave sites, and Williams’ dream is to completely cover the cemetery one day.
This is Danville’s 12th year participating in the program. The cemetery serves veterans within a radius of 75 miles.
• The local group’s Facebook site is http://www.facebook.com/coverdanvillenationalcemetary and the website to buy a wreath for Danville next year is https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/pages/14815/Overview/
For more information, you also may email Tammy Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (217) 516-2354. Donations are being taken for 2019.