FERNLEY — Christmas wreaths, each with a red ribbon, lined row after row at both the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley and thousands of other graveyards that serve as a final resting place for the country’s veterans.
Wreaths Across America, a special day to honor veterans in all 50 states and overseas, reminds the nation of their sacrifices during both peacetime and at war. Wreaths Across America also took place at Lone Mountain Cemetery in Carson City.
Navy reservist AT2 Jonathan Burnett, who assists the Nevada Veterans Coalition with their ceremonies at NNVMC, stood at one of the columbarium’s memorial markers for a World War II vet who was at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7. Burnett said Francis “Frank” Minervini, who was born in 1912, enlisted in the Navy when he was 17 years old and was shy of his 30th birthday when Japanese planes bombed the huge navy base and airfields on Oahu.
Minervini holds a special spot in Burnett’s heart, who remembers the sailor’s life and how, later in the war in 1944, he was on a torpedoed ship and spent two days floating in the Pacific Ocean with a shattered knee before he was rescued. The 103-year-old Minervini, who attended the 100th anniversary of the U.S.S. Nevada’s launch into service in March 2016, died later that same year.
“I perform Navy funeral honors,” Burnett said. “That’s part of my job in the Navy Reserve.”
Burnett took the time to find out more about Minervini and was able to arrange for a Navy chaplain to perform the service and the Patriot Guard to present the flags. More than 100 people attended the service.
Dayton resident Caroll Massie has attended the Wreaths Across America ceremony for years, first accompanying her husband, Bill, when they paid their respects to his father, World War II Navy veteran Joseph D. Massie, who died 30 years ago. Now, she not only visits the final resting place for her father-in-law but also pays her respects to Bill, who died in 2016.
Massie said the veterans’ cemetery is beautiful and provides her security knowing her husband, a retired chief petty officer, is safe.
“I am surprised how big it is,” she said of the Wreaths Across America program at NNVMC, which began in 2007 with 28 wreaths. Now the program honors more than 7,000 veterans.
A friend from Dayton stood next to Massie. Navy veteran Roy Eifentrater, who belongs to the Fleet Association of America chapter 137, remarked on the event’s importance.
“This means so very much,” Eifentrater said of Saturday’s ceremony. “It brings tears to my eyes. Look at all these people here (the volunteers). It warms my heart.”
Likewise, Joe Nash and his brother, Bill, who both live Fallon, visited their father’s grave. Nathan Joseph Nash served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars and retired as a major.
“We try to get out here every Memorial Day and this,” said Joe Nash, a Navy veteran. “We also help put up the flags here and also put up flags in Fallon (for Memorial Day).”
Nathan Nash served on active duty until April 1957 and the active reserve until July 1961. He decided to return to active duty and received a commission four months later, retiring in 1977. Joe Nash said his father was in Air Force intelligence but didn’t say too much about his career. Bill Nash, though, said he remembers the memories of moving around.
Tom Draughon, spokesman for the NVC, said the national ceremony is an important remembrance.
“At this memorial site and memorial sites all across America, we are one nation with one flag, and we are all proud to be Americans,” he said, adding freedom didn’t come without a price. “We can worship as we see fit, raise our children to believe as we do, and we can travel from one end of this great nation to another and don’t have to receive permission.”
Draughon also apologized to the ceremony’ attendees. One truck hauling 5,000 wreaths was delayed and could not make the ceremony in time. He said the final wreaths will be placed Monday beginning at 9 a.m.
Nevada Department of Veterans Services’ deputy director of Wellness, Wendy Simons, offered remarks on behalf of director Kat Miller, who was attending a Wreaths Across America ceremony in Southern Nevada. She said the day was more for remembering the individuals buried at the NNVMC rather than decorating the gravesite that is done during Memorial Day.