NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — They spread out over the city's cemeteries on Saturday, more than 200 volunteers seeking out names and placing wreaths.
It was part of the National Wreaths Across America Day, what is becoming an annual event to remember those who served in the nation's military. More than 3,000 wreaths were placed on graves at Southview, Hill Side, Blackinton and St. Joseph's cemeteries.
Boxes filled with the 3,200 wreaths that were delivered on Wednesday were set out early on Saturday morning in pre-arranged locations for the volunteers.
Jason LeFleur was helping his son, Killian, 8, who was doing it for the Cub Scouts.
"A lot of my family is in the Army," Killian said as they searched for a name at Southview. "So I wanted to do it. It's a good deed."
Bonnie and Richard Sheehan were checking off a list of names, their arms full of wreaths.
"We're doing this for our son, Ryan, who is in the Air Force, and in honor of his father," Bonnie Sheehan said.
Her husband said he was able to place the wreath on his father's grave because he was buried in the section they were working on near the skating rink. The Sheehan said their son had been involved in the wreath placements at Arlington National Cemetery when he was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base and this year, he was volunteering in New Hampshire.
The local group of the national effort had raised $32,000 — $7,000 more than the initial estimate needed — to cover the more than 3,000 veterans' gravestones.
The monthslong effort of fundraising and coordinating had come together on Saturday with a student display at MountainOne and a formal ceremony at the Veterans Memorial at noon, one of more than 1,000 taking place across the country.
"The freedoms we enjoy today have not come without a price," said master of ceremonies Amy Christian, a location volunteer. "Lying here before us and in cemeteries across the nation are men and women who gave their lives so that we can live in freedom and without fear ...
"The United States of America was founded on the ideals of freedom, justice and equality. Our nation stands as a shining beacon of liberty and freedom to the world. We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free and we shall not forget you, we shall remember."
Curtain asked those who would be laying wreaths to speak each veteran's name so they would not be forgotten.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael McCarron, the keynote speaker, noted that the 2018 theme of Wreaths Across America was "be their witness."
"In the military, soldiers learn and grow in leadership skills to increase in rank and responsibility to one day take on the position of those that came before them," he said. "This is what Wreaths Across America hopes to provide for young men and women in our country. We must teach our young adults about leadership, commitment and sacrifice and what it means to accept responsibility."
Honor encompasses military values of respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and courage, he said. It means becoming part of a team, something greater than yourself.
The wreath organization is showing those same values, McCarron said.
"They show their admiration for those brave men and women who so willingly sacrificed their lives for ours by publicly honoring them every time they lay a wreath on a grave."
Also speaking was Mayor Thomas Bernard, who while quoting Abraham Lincoln that it was fitting to recognize the dead, said it was also important to remember veterans still living.
The setting of wreaths at the cemetery was preceded by a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial.
"We're equally charged with the duty to provide services and support for those who served the nation and their fellow citizens," he said and referred to the donations distributed by the Veterans Office on Friday as an example.
The Rev. William Cyr gave the blessing and Faith and Joseph Christian led the pledge. The presentation of colors was by Adam DeMarsico, retired Army Sgt. Kurt Christian, Brian Christian, former Navy Petty officer Rebecca Litchfield, Marine Sgt. Robert Grandchamp, Senior Airman Caitlyn Durant and Kurt Christian Jr. The Drury High band played patriotic songs, including "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Seven wreaths representing all services and the POW/MIA were laid at the memorial by McCarron, retired Army Staff Sgt. Joseph ZustraArthur Gardner, former Navy Petty Officer Donald Boudreau, former Air Force Sgt. Michael Fierro Sr., former Coast Guard Petty Officer Tony Coniglio, Marine Lance Cpl. Kassie Trzpis and Leigh DeMarsico.
The effort had been spearheaded by Donna Engel and Donna Whitcomb. Whitcomb, taking a moment in-between opening wreath boxes at Southview, said the day had been wonderful.
"I love the sense of community this time of year bringing everyone together," she said. "It was wonderful and humbling."
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