A wreath-laying ceremony on Thursday will help remind people that while we’re enjoying the holidays, mili-tary men and women are on the job.

Across the country, veterans’ groups will gather at the same time — 11 a.m. here — to place wreaths at all national cemeteries and veterans’ memorials. Danville’s cemetery at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System is one of 230 sites participat-ing.

This is the first year for the nationwide ceremony, which honors all service people — those away from home and those who lost their lives in the line of duty.

The Patriot Guard Riders and Civil Air Patrol are coordinating the ceremonies.

“This is a worthwhile project, and I am happy to be involved,” said Dave Switzer of Bismarck, a member of the Patriot Guard Riders.

“The Patriot Guard Riders will not be active in the ceremony (seen, but not heard), but we will be there to honor our brothers and sisters. Our sole purpose is to make this happen,” he said.

The national group, which has several local members, is made up of motorcycle riders united by respect for those who risk their lives for America’s freedom and security. The group’s main mission is to attend the funeral services of military people as invited guests and to shield family and friends from protestors.

“If there happen to be any protesters present, we will place ourselves between them and the ceremony,” Switzer said.

The wreaths are from the Worcester Wreath Company in Maine as part of Wreaths Across America, which was formed in September.

At the local cemetery, master of ceremonies will be Harold “Sparky” Songer with the Vermilion County War Museum. The ceremony will open with a minute of silence to remember the fallen, prisoners of war, missing in action and to honor those who have served and are serving in the armed services.

After comments by Songer, military representatives will lay six wreaths — one each for the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Air Force and POW/MIA.

Joe Tracy, with the Patriot Guard Riders in Peoria, also is pleased to be involved.

“I think it’s the right thing to do, which is what we’re all about — doing what’s right,” he said. “It’s a great thing getting started.”

Next year, the event could expand to “Wreaths Across the World,” he said.

Tracy is special projects coordinator/daily operations manager for Help on the Home Front, an arm of the Patriot Guard Rid-ers for military personnel who have been injured and need help once they return home.

Tracy is coordinating the group’s activities in Illinois for the wreath ceremonies.

The Worcester Wreath Co. has been laying wreaths at each grave at Arlington National Cemetery for 15 years. Civil Air Patrol members in Maine became involved five years ago.

This year, the company wanted to expand its efforts to every national cemetery. Wreaths Across America was conceived with a mission to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach future generations that freedom comes from sacrifice.

The Civil Air Patrol stepped up again, but the group is thin in several areas of the country, Switzer said, and the Patriot Guard Riders were called upon to help.

As for the significance of Dec. 14, Morrill Worcester, president of the wreath company, said “By mid-December we are nearly at the end of our season. Everyone is rushed with planning for the holidays. We can’t imagine a better time to stop and take a moment to say thank you — to remember that what we have today is only here because of those who gave their lives, and the families who will be without loved ones these holidays.”

Those who cannot participate Thursday are asked to observe a moment of silence.


A ceremony to lay holiday remembrance wreaths will start at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Danville National Cemetery at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System, 1900 E. Main St.

For more information, visit:

-- http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org

-- http://www.patriotguard.org

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