(Lander, WY) – “Find a way to serve” was the theme for the 2022 Wreaths Across America (WAA) ceremony, and the crowd of about 50 found a way to honor the lives of the Veterans whose final resting grounds lay within Mount Hope Cemetery in Lander.
The wreath-laying ceremony is held annually in conjunction with the nationwide event that’s now in its 31st year, on the second or third Saturday of December, when the WAA makes its annual pilgrimage to deliver the wreaths from Harrington, Maine to Arlington National Cemetery, schools, monuments, Veterans’ homes and communities all across the country.
As the ceremony began, event MC Tara Berg commented that the wreaths arrived this morning, with many folks showing up hours in advance to shovel, clear areas, and make the preparations.
After the opening remarks and a moment of silence, Ken Persson and the Don Stough Post 33 American Legion Color Guard raised the flag and presented the colors.
“Today, as a community, we come together in gratitude and respect as we remember the fallen, honor those who serve and their families, and teach the values of freedom,” Berg continued before breaking down the meaning of each of the 10 bouquets on the Veteran’s wreaths.
- The first stands for the Veteran’s belief in the greater good.
- The second stands for their love for one another.
- The third represents the Veteran’s strength, work ethic, and character.
- The fourth stands for the Veteran’s honesty and integrity.
- The fifth represents the Veteran’s humility, selflessness, and modesty.
- The sixth stands for the Veteran’s ambitions and aspirations.
- The seventh stands for Veteran’s optimism for their fellow Americans and for our country.
- The eighth stands for the Veteran’s concern for the future and future generations.
- The ninth represents the Veteran’s pride in carrying out their duties.
- The tenth stands for Veteran’s hopes and dreams that didn’t always come true but were left with no regrets.
The various branches of the military and selected groups were then honored with the laying of the ceremonial remembrance wreaths by the following individuals:
- Joey Waller (United States Army)
- Bill Collister (United States Marine Corps)
- Dan Raith (United States Navy)
- Mark Crawford (United States Air Force)
- John Riggs (United States Space Force)
- Jeff Quillen (United States Coast Guard)
- Bruce Gallinger (United States Merchant Marines)
- Jim Paulus (93,129 United States Servicemen from all branches whose last known status was Prisoner of War or Missing in Action)
Following the remembrance wreath laying, Berg introduced Keynote Speaker, active duty Lieutenant Colonel Robert LeJeune.
Lieutenant Colonel LeJeune was the Wyoming National Guard’s former Commander of the 2-300th Field Artillery, and is in current Command of the 251st Battlefield Coordination Detachment in the California Army National Guard.
Lieutenant Colonel LeJeune’s full speech is below.
Following Lieutenant Colonel LeJeune’s address, folks were then given the wreaths to lay on the graves of various Veterans within the cemetery, “to honor their lives,” Berg reminded the crowd.
Attendees, ranging from boy scout troops, law enforcement, elected officials, Veterans and community members, were also asked to say the Veterans’ names aloud as they laid the wreaths, many trudging through 8-12 inches of snow to do so.