Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wreaths Across America - Coast to Coast

By Maj Misra and 2Lt Hollerbach

This year, our Squadron participated in the annual Wreaths Across America ceremony coast to coast – well, at least in one East Coast ceremony in Florida and in our “home” ceremony in California!

I [Maj Misra] was able to attend and participate in the Wreaths Across America ceremony with/in collaboration with CAP Squadron 182 of Group 3 based at Albert Whittled Airport in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The ceremony was held at Veterans Memorial Park and Museum in Tampa, Florida.  There is no cemetery there; however the memorial as erected has a tribute to each branch of service.
Maj Misra and Art Stoutenberg, CAP

The event was hosted and directed by CAP Squadron 182 and was initiated with a presentation of the colors and the pledge of allegiance to our nations flag.

Then there was a salute to each branch of service followed by a descriptive narrative about the history and origins of WAA.  Unfortunately the wreaths themselves were not delivered in time by FedEx to be displayed as intended.  Nevertheless there were two wreaths that the organizers were able to use for the ceremony.

 The ceremony was approximately 15-20 minutes in length and attended by approximately 10-12 people from the local community.  This venue has a dedicated memorial to the Korean War and there was a veteran of the conflict from the Korean peninsula who was in attendance named Mr. Horace M. Clark.  He is a disabled veteran and a veteran of the unit named the “92nd AFA Red Devils” who were of the first American military presence to engage in battle during the Korean War.

Maj Misra and Mr Clark
I was immediately drawn to him on account of him uttering some unique Masonic phraseology during salute to the flag, which prompted me to approach him.  He and I belong to the oldest fraternity known today called the Freemasons and he also completed Scottish Rite as I did.  I informed him how much I appreciate his service not only to us broadly as a nation but that he also protected my family in Korea then, as my in-laws were just children when this horrible war happened.  If not for the bravery and distinction with which men like he and thousands others served, my own personal family would likely be very different today.  I am almost brought to tears when I give thought to this fact, which is why I support Wreaths Across America and all efforts that emphasize the depth that we owe these heroes who were either killed in action or gravely injured protecting our nation and its future generations – people they either never met or are unlikely to ever meet.
Honoring of Each Branch of Service

Closer to home, I [2Lt Hollerbach] and 1Lt Bitz attended the ceremony at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California, along with members of Cadet Squadron 18. This was my first time attending this event, and I found it incredibly moving.  The cadets did an exceptional job in their presentation of the colors.

Presentation of Colors by the Hillsborough County
Fire Department Honor Guard
Both ceremonies shared a lot in common with each other - and with other WAA ceremonies across the country:  At exactly noon Eastern Time, we observed one minute of silence in memory of the fallen, prisoners of war, those missing in action, and those who have served and are still serving.  Opening remarks by the Master of Ceremonies (Art Stoutenberg of CAP in Veterans Memorial Park and Museum in Florida and Marston Watson at Golden Gate National Cemetery in California. Presentation of the colors by the Hillsborough County Fire Department Honor Guard (Florida) and the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Squadron 18 (California).  All branches of the military were honored, as were POWs and MIA. Prior to the laying of the wreaths, we had a rifle salute, closing remarks, and taps.

The Civil Air Patrol salutes the men and women of the armed forces. Our thanks to all who support this great event honoring our veterans and those who donated wreaths for the ceremony.

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