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"Wreaths Across America Day" brightens graves, cemeteries

The Shelby American Legion and its family of similar organizations participated in "Wreaths Across America Day" on Saturday, Dec. 17. Linda Quinlan, Auxiliary Unit 82 Vice President and PR Chairperson, said of the event, "This is the third year Shelby has hosted this event, and it was again spearheaded by Rebecca Higgins, Past President of Auxiliary Unit 82. Members of the local Benjamin Cleveland DAR Chapter also helped to sell wreaths and promote the event this year."

Mrs. Quinlan noted Wreaths Across America is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization which was "...founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and was begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992."

The organization's mission is to "Remember, Honor, and Teach," she said, adding, " ...and that its carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as thousands of veterans' cemeteries in all 50 states and beyond."

Quinlan noted the Saturday, Dec. 17 program began at 10 a.m. at the Shelby Boys and Girls Club, located next to Sunset Cemetery.

"Mrs. Higgins welcomed dozens of attendees to the brief program which opened with a prayer by Legion Post 82 Chaplain Gary McNeilly, followed by the National Anthem led by Legionnaire Larry Ray, and remarks by both Dr. Jack Weller, representing the Boys and Girls Club, and Felicia Stroud, Benjamin Cleveland, DAR Regent."

She continued, "The brief program set the tone for placement of wreaths on veterans' headstones at both Sunset and Webb Cemeteries." Linda said Mrs. Higgins stated locations across America conduct "...similar programs which are intended to thank our nation's departed veterans for serving honorably and nobly and for protecting our freedoms. All gave some, and some gave all."

Representatives were then called upon, said Quinlan, to place a memorial wreath in honor of the different branches of military service.

Those individuals were Martha Bridges, Post 82 Commander - U.S. Army; Felicia Stroud - U.S. Navy; Denise Smith, Auxiliary Unit 82 President - U.S. Marine Corps; Art Gordon, local VFW Commander - U.S. Air Force; Jim Quinlan, Post 82 3rd Vice Commander - U.S. Coast Guard; Victor Darville, Past Post 82 Commander - U.S. Merchant Marines; Phil Peeler, U.S. Space Force; and Frances Patterson, laid the final wreath in honor of POW-MIAs.

Mrs. Quinlan said Mrs. Patterson was instrumental in not only selling many wreaths, but also was able to extend an accepted invitation from two Miss USA title contenders - Miss North Carolina USA, Morgan Romano, and Miss Alabama USA, Katelyn Vinson.

Miss Ramono and Miss Vinson visited the Charlotte Airport early that Saturday morning to help send off a Veterans Honor Flight, and were eager to participate in a Wreaths Across America program on the local level while they were in the area.

Also in attendance was Mr. Bill Humphries, Post 82 Legionnaire who served in the U.S. Army and member of the Scottish-American Military Society veterans organization. Wearing traditional Scottish garb, Mr. Humphries volunteered along with many other program attendees to place wreaths on the graves of local veterans.

Said Linda, "Mrs. Higgins said nearly 600 wreaths were sold locally through the efforts of Shelby's American Legion Post, Auxiliary, and Sons of the American Legion members and she is hoping to increase that number next year in order to honor more of our Cleveland County veterans."

Volunteers were thanked for attending the program, then disbursed to Sunset and Webb Cemeteries to place the hundreds of the beautiful fresh balsam wreaths.

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