Live up to their legacy.
General James C. McConville, chief of staff of the United States Army, included those words in a quote to journalist Chris Wallace last year. The simplistic, yet reverent, statement uttered by the highest-ranking officer and military advisor in the country resonated with Karen Worcester, the co-founder of National Wreaths Across America Day. It became the theme for 2021.
The Worcester Wreath Company had been delivering excess wreaths to place on the Arlington National Cemetery gravestones since 1992 before officially becoming the Wreaths Across America nonprofit organization in 2008. Today, in its 14th year, wreath-laying ceremonies are now held in over 2,700 locations across the United States, Puerto Rico and at multiple oversees cemeteries.
As a designated WAA city, Ormond Beach was able to host two larger ceremonies, one at Hillside Cemetery and the second one at Volusia Memorial Park. Volunteers also placed wreaths at Gethsemane Cemetery and Pilgrims Rest.
The Capt. James Ormond Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, hosted its wreath-laying event at 10 a.m. Prior to the start of the ceremony, one member felt the effects of high temperatures along with stifling humidity and was taken to the hospital to be evaluated.
Dee Clark, the location coordinator for the chapter, reminded everyone of the purpose at hand to remember the fallen, honor those that served and their families and teach the value of freedom to the next generation. There was a moment of silence before Bree’Shawn Watson played the trumpet.
Zone 4 Commissioner Rob Littleton presented Lee Thornton, Regent Captain of the Captain James Ormond Chapter, with Mayor Bill Partington’s official proclamation declaring December 18, 2021 as National Wreaths Across America Day.
“I’m humbled to be here today,” Littleton said. “The city is also grateful to be part of it."
Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post joked with Clark and Thornton regarding completing her DAR paperwork when she retires, then somberly explained the meaning of the day for her.
“I see a few children in the audience today,” she said. “I think that’s really the point of why we need to do these things. So we do pass on this message, we do pass on this legacy and that they truly remember why we have the freedoms that we have.”
At noon, the Veterans Assistance Coalition kicked off their wreath-laying ceremony at the Volusia Memorial Park. After 30 seconds of silence, Vincent Cue led the crowd in prayer followed by the American Legion Post 120 of Holly Hill posting the colors.
“All these people have shown up and they’re here for a very great and solemn occasion,” Cue said. “We are just loving life as it is and grateful to have a reason to come out and celebrate.”
The day before the ceremony, a semi-truck arrived at the memorial park with 244 boxes of fresh, balsam-fir wreaths. The Veterans Assistance Coalition had reached their goal of purchasing 2,000 wreaths. With an abundance of volunteers, it was only a short amount of time before the boxes were distributed throughout the cemetery and ready for the Veterans wreath-laying ceremony.
“A person dies twice,” said Jim Kreinest, the master of ceremonies. “Once when they take their last breath and once when their name is spoken the last time, when nobody remembers them any more.”