Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wreaths Across America 2010

San Diego will continue to be the most powerful military town on the planet. There isn’t a country in the world that wants to get into a war with San Diego. . . . John Pike, defense analyst at

Yesterday I went with my Daughters of the American Revolution buddies to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery to lay 2800 wreaths on our veterans' grave sites.

The second Saturday of December each year is Wreaths Across America, a project to lay a holiday wreath on veterans' graves across the country. The tradition started with one man in Maine, Morrill Worcester, who owns Worcester Wreaths and who set out to lay wreaths on all the Arlington cemetery graves in 1992. Since then the project has grown to 215,000 wreaths across the country this year and, being the military town we are, there was no lack of graves.

The morning began with one of those Pacific Ocean mists that can move in like a flash and as quickly clear to bright sunshine.

When it cleared, 700 volunteers were revealed from all over San Diego, Girl Scouts, Patriot Riders, corporate groups, individuals, college students, you name it, they were there.

We were joined by active duty military,

some with a lot of ribbons and metals on their chests and stripes on the sleeve.

The moving pre-wreath laying ceremony was hosted by our own DeAnza D.A.R. chapter Joanne Murphy (usually she has a lot of ribbons and metals on her chest herself),

and the wreath procession led by the Sons of the American Revolution, headed naturally by a bagpipe playing Scotsman.

They were followed by the presentation of a wreath for each branch of service, the Merchant Marines, and the MIA/POW's.

I couldn't help but think these were such young people, too young to be thinking about war, and so young I had to retouch this young's man's acne.

We were finally ready for the boxes of wreaths trucked all the way from Maine to be handed out by Mark Bauckman, coordinator for The Mission Continues, ex-Navy himself, and employee of Qualcomm, a huge supporter of the project. He was a dead ringer for Kevin Bacon.

We laid our wreaths, mine on Joseph Edgar Hayden from Pennsylvania, and wondered about their stories,

reflecting for a bit.

Jeffrey is a six foot two Afro-American I asked along in our group. I don't think he could pass for a D.A.R. but no questions were asked when he reached for our box out of the truck.

Some looked for special graves, Nancy was looking for Army Air but finally placed hers on one marked only US soldier. A Point Loma Nazarene student searched until he found one that had his same birthday, October 17.

I found an Irishman with a Celtic gravestone who died at Camp Kearny, a World War I Army camp in San Diego. He was just 7 days past his 30th birthday when he died in 1918. What was an Irishman doing in San Diego in World War I?

And a guy, Mason Carter, Medal of Honor from the Indian Campaigns. Not sure I'd want that on my headstone.

Nancy and I walked through the cemetery for a while after our wreaths were placed. There is no doubt Fort Rosecrans, a cemetery since 1847 before California was a state and overlooking the ocean and bay from both sides, is prime real estate.

What is also evident is these grave markers go on for what seems forever, 71,000 records in all, albeit some are spouses, and we had only 2800 wreaths.

I had that Shindler's List feeling - we could have done more. As good as it looks in these photos, most of the gravesites didn't get a wreath. Shall we propose to call a halt to wars until we can put a wreath on the graves we have now?


Anonymous said...

Lots of bones. Touching story.

Pat said...

Or we could just call a halt to war altogether?

Funny how JJ is welcome wherever he goes, eh? Good guy.

Poignant post, Kath. Nice job.

Les said...

What a wonderful tradition. I was in a local veterans cemetery this past Memorial Day. I wanted to take some pictures with all the flags on the graves. I turned around from where I had set up and nearly hit the grave of someone who was born on the fourth of July.

I liked your quote, it could easily apply to where I live in Norfolk. This area is often referred to by military people as "Pentagon South".

Katharine said...

Yes, I'm thinking to go back down on Memorial Day and walk the cemetery when the flags are up. It's a reminder of the numbers.

Gretchen said...

My husband and I were there this year again but were unable to lay a wreath because we were not part of a group. I signed up through a Volunteer San Diego group and was hoping to lay at least one wreath. The year before we were two of about 15 people that laid all the wreaths on the chilly rainy Dec. 10th. We were paired with another husband and wife couple who were active US Navy. Walking with them to each grave and watching them salute and honor each person was a wonderful, touching experience. I have some wonderful photos of remembrance of that day and hope we can experience it again. This year I am going to try and single handedly sell enough wreaths to have my own "group."