FERNLEY — It was a day of honor and remembrance around the world for almost 2 million veterans.
“We proudly serve all veterans in Nevada, some of them walk among us, many were with us today,” said Kat Miller, director of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services, in honor of Wreaths Across America Day. “But others are at their final rest in the cemetery and cemeteries throughout this great state.”
A record number of more than 2,300 people honored 8,300 veterans a week ago Saturday by placing wreaths on headstones and at the columbarium at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley as part of the national program. More than 50 sailors from all commands at Naval Air Station Fallon attended the ceremony in addition to many civic and youth groups.
“How do you serve a man or woman who no longer walks the earth?” Miller rhetorically asked. “You do it by remembering them and by honoring them by teaching future generations about their accomplishments.”
Begun as a nationwide remembrance conducted in 50 states, United States territories and other countries where servicemen and women are interred, Wreaths Across America originated in the early 1990s to thank veterans for serving both in times of peace and war, at home and overseas.
At Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., the ceremony begins at noon, while other locations around the word coincide their ceremony to start at the same time.
Adorned with a red ribbons, Christmas wreaths lined each row at both the NNVMC and thousands of other cemeteries that serve as a final resting place for the country’s veterans. Miller said guests honor veterans, many of whom they never knew.
“They share the love of country that makes us brothers and sisters,” Miller, who spent 30 years in the U.S. Army and retired as a colonel, said of the interred veterans.
Miller said men and women put their lives in harm’s way to protect the U.S. Constitution and the country’s residents, and the event also tells those who wear the military uniform the nation is grateful for their courage and devotion to duty. She added servicemen and women are constantly in our prayers. As she concluded her remarks, Miller said the evergreen wreath offered to the nation’s heroes honors their valor and sacrifice.
Tom Draughon, the event’s narrator and a member of the Nevada Veterans Coalition, said many people — both in the military and in civilian life — served their country at one time or another. While the service member left home to his country’s calling, the spouse and the children remained at home to carry on life’s everyday routine.
Many spouses who served during the nation’s wars, though, paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“Lying here before us and in cemeteries throughout the nation, men and women gave their lives so we could live in freedom,” Draughon said.
The Army veteran said Wreaths Across America is a day the nation honors its veterans and for its citizens to remember the sacrifices.
“We remember the fallen, honor those who served and teach our children the value of freedom,” he added.
Raymond Scow and Dave Carroll, both members of the Vietnam Veterans Association chapter 989 in Reno, paid respects to their fallen comrades. For Scow, though, it’s also personal. His father died in 2000 and is buried at NNVMC. For Carroll, it’s honoring those who wore the uniform. The Bibles — Jim and Jeannie — of Fernley placed a wreath on a friend’s grave.
“It’s important to show that these guys still have family,” Jeannie said.
Rick Athenour, a former sailor who spent two tours aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and completed a three-year tour at NAS Fallon in the late 1980s, attended the Wreaths Across America day with his family and other members of the Fleet Reserve Association. Athenour was president of FRA branch 137 and is now president of the West Coast region that includes most of California, Northern Nevada (chapters in Carson City, Reno and Fallon), Utah and Colorado.
“Many important members of the veterans’ community are here today,” Athenour said, noting many families with their children also attended.
Although many of the children don’t understand the veterans’ sacrifices, Athenour said awareness comes with age. The large crowd attending on a brisk December morning also pleased him.
“It’s definitely grown,” he said of NNVMC’s Wreaths Across America day. “It’s long overdue.”