Huge turnout to lay wreaths for veterans
FERNLEY — Two women took several steps backward after placing a wreath at the base of a headstone at the Northern Nevada Memorial Veterans Cemetery north of Fernley Saturday.
Both women stood motionless, tears welling in their eyes.
“I lost him last year,” said Dayton resident Deborah McGifford, whose husband of 36 years died in 2014.
McGifford said her husband enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving for 20 years. She and her sister, Brenda Williford, who was visiting from Alabama, were two of hundreds of people paying their respects to the veterans interred at NNVMC by laying almost 6,000 wreaths on gravesites and along the columbarium containing the remains of servicemen and women who served in the armed forces.
The “Wreaths Across America” program, which honors veterans in all 50 states and at overseas national cemeteries, had more than enough holiday wreaths for the second consecutive year for veterans at the Fernley cemetery. McGifford said it’s extremely important for families and acquaintances tor remember those who served in one of the military branches.
“My family has always had a strong sense of country,” McGifford said.
The Dayton woman said her son is in the Marines, and a daughter served in the Navy. Other family members joined either the U.S. Air Force or Army.
Just down from McGifford and Williford, Cindy Edgington placed a wreath at her father-in-law’s gravesite.
“We have quite a few friends her,” quietly said Edgington, whose husband, Roy, is Fernley’s mayor and a veteran.”
Retired state auditor Charlotte LaCombe traveled from Carson City to see the ceremony for the first time. She also placed three wreaths at the gravesites of Korean War veterans.
“I was very proud to be placing the wreaths and learning a little more about the veterans and the cemetery,” she said.
Prior to the family and volunteers placing wreaths, Narrator Joe Gale, a member of the veterans’ coalition talked about veterans and how they unselfishly served their country. He said the men and women who served in the military ensured their fellow American were kept safe from terrorism, hate and injustice. He said the wreaths honor all who wore the uniform.
As he has done for several years, Gale encouraged attendees to learn more about veterans who have died.
“Take a moment to visit a gravesite, take down information and return home to think about it,” he said.
Although the national program began 23 years ago for family to lay wreaths at veterans’ gravesites, the program at the state veterans’ cemetery at Fernley began in 2007 with 40 wreaths and a crowd that numbered about 50. Of the thousands of wreaths ordered, officials said about 100 wreaths are taken to Fallon to The Gardens Cemetery’s veterans’ section and the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Indian Cemetery at Stillwater.
“My staff did not expect this would grow as much as it did,” said Kat Miller, director the Nevada Department of Veteran Services. “This is one of the few state cemeteries that has covered every grave (with a wreath).”
Last year at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City, she said about 800 wreaths were purchased, but this year, 2,000 wreaths were ordered, a sign of increased community support.
“This is not about veterans but about the community and families to say thank you and remember,” Miller added.
Sgt. First Class Mayra Serrano of the Nevada Army National Guard and five other guardsmen volunteered to help family members place wreaths. She was pleased to see how the community cared about “Wreaths across America” and the participation displayed by the people who attended the ceremony.
“It’s also important that our generation of the military sees the history here and walks around,” Serrano added.
While the guardsmen attended their first ceremony, A01 Joshua Bowen from Naval Air Station Fallon and about 30 sailors volunteered. This marks Bowen’s third year in attending the ceremony. Many of the sailors are from aviation ordnance or the medical clinic.
“This is a good event to help connect families,” Bowen said.