Americans across the country remembered deceased veterans Saturday by placing wreaths on their graves.
They were taking part in Wreaths across America Day, which began at the Arlington National Cemetery in 1992 but was observed at the Pines Cemetery in Spokane Valley this year for the first time.
In a prepared statement, Army veteran Tzena Scarborough, who helped organize the Pines Cemetery event, thanked the veterans who attended.
“America has always been the first nation to stand up for the freedom of people from around the world,” she said. “Many of you here today have answered that call and served your country well.”
According to organizers, the event aims to remember servicemen and -women and honor the sacrifices of those living and dead, while teaching children the importance of patriotism.
Scarborough also recognized those currently serving.
“These men and women are part of the best-trained, best-equipped force in the world,” she said. “We honor them and their families for the sacrifices they make each day to keep our country safe from terrorism, hatred and injustice that plague the world community.”
Scouts from Boy Scout Troop 130 and Cub Scout Pack 420 presented wreaths in honor of those who have served with the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. Mary Ann Birchard, whose husband, Spence Birchard, was a prisoner of war during the Korean War, presented one for prisoners of war and those listed as missing in action.
Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey spoke at the event about his family’s military history. His sister was a military spouse, his brother was a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps and his father served in the South Pacific during World War II.
Towey served in the Navy: “I remember that special pride that I felt … in having the privilege of serving in the armed forces,” he said.
Spokane Valley City Councilman Arne Woodard said three of his seven children served.
He told the crowd to not only honor servicemen and -women – “they are the bastion of our freedom” – but also the families that support them.
“You really need to remember that it’s the total of the unit that creates strength,” he said.
Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Co. in Maine, started the event when his company had a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season one year. Inspired by a visit to the Arlington National Cemetery as a child, he decided to donate the wreaths to honor the veterans buried there.
The annual event has since spread to all 50 states and beyond. There are more than 800 locations around the world where people can sponsor wreaths, including numerous cemeteries in Washington and Idaho.
Many of the wreaths at the Pines location were donated by Helping Our Military Eternally Home, a ministry of Valley Fourth Memorial Church. The ministry presented the event along with the Pines Cemetery Association.
“We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free, and we shall not forget you,” Scarborough said. “We shall remember.”