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Wreaths Across America Ceremony draws thousands of participants

“When I thought of how I was going to thank all the people responsible for making this day a success, I felt it was like trying to thank all 40,000 veterans that are laid to rest here,” John Fasching, who serves as location leader for the Wreaths Across America along with his wife, Lisa, said during the event held at the Indiantown Gap National Cemetery Saturday afternoon.

“We thank them all with our presence here today and we’re going to make it personal for 5,576 of them by laying a wreath on his or her grave,” Fasching said.

The 2012 Wreaths Across America Ceremony held at the Pennsylvania Veterans Memorial was expected to draw thousands of people, according to James Metcalfe, the director of the cemetery.

Parking at the cemetery was limited. Shuttle buses conveyed participants from the Fort Indiantown Gap Community Club.

“We anticipate a good turnout, easily 2,500 to 3,000 participants to help lay the wreaths,” Metcalfe said. “This is special to many people. The Leatherneck Riders, for example, are especially dedicated and raise funds for wreaths all year long.”

A large number of motorcycle groups assisted in the fund-raising effort, including the Iron Horse Helpers Motorcycle Club, which sold the largest number of wreaths, raising $15,000 for 1,005 wreaths.

In total, there were enough wreaths to cover 11 sections of the cemetery. The future goal is to place 40,000 wreaths, one for the grave of each veteran interred at the cemetery.

In her address, Brigadier Gen. Susan Davidson referred to the wreaths as “simple and silent gestures.”

“They remind us what Wreaths Across America’s mission is: To remember the fallen, honor those who have served and teach our children the value of freedom,” said Davidson, who serves as commanding general of Defense Logistics Agency Distribution.

All together, 400,000 wreaths were donated and laid at 750 locations in 50 states, several locations in Iraq, and at 24 other international cemeteries during the event held simultaneously Saturday at noon.

In addition to the motorcycle groups, there were at least 100 organizations and youth groups, including local scouts, to assist with the placing of wreaths.

“That’s important because these young people will be our future leaders,” Fasching said, adding that each would receive certificates of appreciation for their service, as well as custom-designed Wreaths Across America patches.

Among the youth to assist with the laying of wreaths were 12 members of Palmyra Boy Scout Troop 456, led by Roscoe Van Muylwyk, who served in the military in his native South Africa. He explained that it was a means for his troop to practice good citizenship.

“It’s good civil recognition for the boys,” Muylwyk said. “It teaches them what freedom is about and helps them show respect for our veterans.”

It was the third year that the troop stood guard next to the service ceremonial wreaths, he added. It was also the first year the Palmyra scouts were asked to assist the color guard.

The ceremony included a military aircraft fly-over and the singing of the national anthem by the Pennsylvania PUC Choir.

Saturday’s service drew to a conclusion when Duke, the riderless horse, was led through the memorial by cap walker Mike Elmer from the Landis Valley Farm Museum. A 21-gun salute by the Vet 21 Salute Honor Guard was followed by echo taps played by Howard Reintenbaugh and Joe May.

For information about Wreaths Across America, visit the organization’s home page at http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.

This report courtesy military.com.

Trust Fund

The Trust Fund Grant has directed a change of rules. All requests for travel/lodging reimbursement must have the following: Printed copy of appointment, copy of receipt for gas payment and/or receipt of lodging payment. Payment from Trust Fund will be to the amount on receipts: No receipt-no payment.

Ensure you apply for Travel through VAMC Albuquerque, whenever possible.

If a veteran is eligible for VA Travel payments, no reimbursements are authorized through the Trust Fund Grant.

Benefits

For information on VA benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center.

The office number is 264-4013, fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office.

Meetings

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month, 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa Street.

Veterans for Veterans: every Tuesday, 10 a.m., Quality Inn.

Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: every other Monday, 6 p.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Charlotte, 731-1025.

Point Man Ministry (veterans): every Thursday, 9 a.m., Crossroad Church, 1044 park Ave.

Contacts

Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.

Farmington VA Center: (505) 327-9684.

The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7, 365 days a year. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online, or text 838255.

This story was posted on December 20, 2012.