Remembering the Fallen: Wreaths Across America 2017

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ashley Perdue
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Right as the clock struck noon on December 16, 2017, individuals all across America fell silent.


This moment of silence was to reflect on those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country and for those who are willing to do the same, every single day.


At the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida, this moment of silence took place during the 12th Annual Wreath Laying and Remembrance Ceremony by Wreaths Across America.


The day started off with two police and motorcycle escorts of semi-trucks full of wreaths donated by sponsors from around the world to be placed on gravesites of the fallen.


Once the wreaths arrive, volunteers handed them out a few at a time for each participant. Once the participant has a wreath, they walk to a headstone of their choosing, lay the wreath down, and say the name of the fallen service member.


This is to honor them and keep their name alive. Some believe that a person dies twice: one time when they stop breathing and the second time when their name is spoken for the last time.


“The mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember our fallen veterans, to honor those who are currently serving, to honor those who have served, and to teach younger generations about their sacrifices,” said Randy Lewer, the location coordinator for the Florida National Cemetery and Imagery Analyst with U.S. Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.


Lewer has been coordinating these ceremonies since 2006 when he along with several other veterans and volunteers laid seven wreaths. The following year, the Wreaths Across America Wreath Laying and Remembrance ceremony was opened up to individual ceremonies across the nation.


“In 2007, there were 88 wreaths to lay,” Lewer said. “I’m very proud to say this year, our donations have increased and we placed over 27,000 wreaths on veterans’ graves.”


While this may be considered a large number of wreaths, it represents only a fraction of graves to cover as there are over 120,000 gravesites at Florida National.


Some of these graves house family members and friends of MacDill Air Force Base personnel.


“My father, Louis Reyna, served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and was laid to rest at Florida National last December,” said Louis Reyna, associate director of Saint Leo University, MacDill. “Shortly after his passing, I read the article in the Thunderbolt about the wreath laying ceremony in which I saw some familiar faces of MacDill participating.


“I was personally touched that members of our community were honoring my father and other veterans during the holiday season.”


The wreath laying ceremony is a free event and was open for anyone to participate. There were 17 service members who volunteered, representing Team MacDill.


 “I retired from the military after 23 years and I can’t think of a better way to remember all of our fallen veterans during the holiday season than Wreaths Across America,” said Lewer.