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Wreaths

The colors are presented at the start of the Wreaths Across America program at SS. Peter & John Episcopal Church in Auburn in 2017.

The Wreaths Across America program has become a vital part of our community in Cayuga County for the past eight years. The WAA program is based upon the tradition of remembering service members for their sacrifices.

The annual wreath presentation ceremony is a ritual that occurs around the world, and is understood in most cultures. The wreath’s symbolism honors a selfless warrior who has perished. The wreath’s circular shape signifies eternity, bravery, peace and a unity that provides a powerful connection between current service members and those who came before them. The physicality and balsam scent of the wreath evokes an individual’s contemplation on the dedication and special qualities that make our veterans outstanding human beings.

The WAA lessons ask to remember our fallen veterans, honor those who serve and teach our children the value of freedom and to spread patriotism for the ultimate sacrifices soldiers have made for our country.

The program's 2018 theme, “Be Their Witness,” will come to fruition on Dec. 15, National Wreaths Across America Day, with the words of our guest speaker, Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould. Sheriff Gould is a Vietnam veteran, having served in the 4th Armored Division Artillery in computer specialization. Sheriff Gould had a distinguished career as a 34-year veteran of the state police and has served as Cayuga County’s sheriff from 2007 until he retires on Dec. 31. He continues to “Be Their Witness” by working with and helping Vietnam veterans with their community projects.

Sheriff Gould’s words will honor our veterans and describe life lessons to help our children understand the true price of freedom in our democracy, as he noted: “The ceremony is an exceptional display of the recognition and pride that Cayuga County has in our service men and women.”

The members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter No. 704, Cayuga Community College associate professor and criminal justice program coordinator Thresa Misiaszek, members of the college Criminal Justice Club and the alumni and students of Dana L. West Jr.-Sr. High School come together to create the recognition ceremony.

Our community is blessed to have a cadre of amazing veterans, students, community volunteers and sponsors: Mr. Steve Pelc, Heieck-Pelc Funeral Home, Carnicelli-Indelicato American Legion Post No. 1776, Swietoniowski-Kopeczek American Legion Post No. 1324, Frank Calimeri Veterans Post No. 9, Rear Adm. Richard West and Ministro Ministries, who are the key to the ceremony’s success.

For my students, their participation and community service brings home the reality and need to appreciate the work of the veterans and their family members' sacrifices in order to preserve our freedoms. My students serve as wreath escorts to recognize and remember those who have given everything and those who proudly serve. They welcome the opportunity to interact with the veterans and their families and gain invaluable perspectives on a part of history not found in a textbook or by surfing the internet.

“This is my third year of participation” said student Ryan Teabo. "I volunteer; it is always a good thing to greet and meet our veterans. The ceremony is a way to honor family members who served and sacrificed for our country.”

Jenna, Mary and Lilly Nila have participated in each of the ceremonies. They noted, “Our recognition, devotion to and appreciation for our veterans here and for those at rest in Arlington is a part of the fabric of our lives. We were raised to revere and respect our service persons and are honored to be a part of this outstanding ceremony where we can give back to the veterans by thanking them and acknowledging their service to our nation.”

Nick Valenti, director of the Central District of the New York State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America, said: "The ceremony recognizes our veterans and their families who have borne the greatest sacrifice while protecting our freedoms and democracy. It is crucial to recognize our military personnel who are currently serving our nation given the current state of affairs in the global arena."

The ceremony will also feature the first public display of the Cayuga County Vietnam Veterans Quilt of Honor remembering our 27 fallen soldiers. The drawing for the planned Cayuga County Vietnam Veterans Memorial will also be on display.

The Cayuga County Wreaths Across America ceremony will take place at noon Saturday, Dec. 15, at The Episcopal Church of SS. Peter & John, 169 Genesee St., Auburn. The event is free and open to the public. If anyone wishes to purchase a wreath to publicly honor a loved one or to use for their home, please contact me at (315) 776-5728 ext. 1157 or ltownsend@pbcschools.org.

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Dr. Linda Townsend is a social studies teacher at Dana L. West Jr.-Sr. High School in Port Byron and an adjunct instructor for the Project Advantage Cayuga Community College criminal justice program.

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