Wreaths Across America ceremony honors veterans for 12th straight year

MONTEVALLO – For the 12th consecutive year, volunteers have placed a live balsam wreath at each gravesite in the Alabama National Cemetery to honor the men and women who served their country in the military.

Although COVID-19 restrictions prevented the Support Committee for the Alabama National Cemetery from hosting a large ceremony open to the public this year, a small group of participants gathered at the cemetery on Friday, Dec. 18 for a socially distanced Wreaths Across America Ceremony that was also recorded and uploaded online for viewing.

“We would draw at least 3,000 volunteers and attendees every year to be a part of this,” emcee Janice Rogers said. “Today’s ceremony of course is different yet equally significant in a remembrance ceremony to honor those who serve our country. To all Alabama National Cemetery families, to all our community, to the Support Committee, its volunteers, the supporters’ commitment to honoring the memory of your loved ones and friends will not be deterred by the pandemic, and we will not ever forget their service.”

Ceremonial wreath layers placed wreaths for each branch of the military – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Merchant Marine – and a moment of silence was held to remember the nearly 8,500 veterans and their family members interred at the Alabama National Cemetery.

“There are many men and women serving today in all branches of the military here at home and in places far away that most of us have really never heard of,” Rogers said. “The wreaths before you represent our commitment as the United States of America to remember the fallen. We also want these holiday wreaths to symbolize our honor to those who have served and are serving in the armed forces of our great nation, to their families who endure sacrifices every day on our behalf. To our children, we want you to understand the freedoms you enjoy today have not been free, but have come with such a cost, a cost that someday you may have to pay yourself.”

The SCALNC, with the support of the Blue Star Salute Foundation and Civil Air Patrol, has planned and coordinated the ceremony since the cemetery opened in 2008.

Donors make it possible to supply thousands of wreaths for the gravesites each year.

“This year, the logistics of maintaining COVID precautions meant we had to lay the wreaths immediately upon delivery with a limited number of volunteers,” Rogers said. “So today, with the wreaths already lain, the cemetery is a sea of beautiful symbols of our remembrance of all who rest here in the Alabama National Cemetery. We will continue to lay wreaths on new gravesites until the wreaths are removed in January.”

The ceremony is available for viewing on the Support Committee for the Alabama National Cemetery YouTube channel at Youtu.be/cEJ97oHPRX4.