Veterans honored at Wreaths Across America ceremony in Calverton

The volunteers who placed wreaths on veterans’ graves during Saturday’s Wreaths Across America event were asked to speak each veteran’s name aloud, thank them for their service and pause to reflect on that person’s life.

Wreaths Across America, an organization that encourages people nationwide to remember veterans on National Wreaths Across America Day, came to Calverton National Cemetery last weekend and placed about 45,000 wreaths on graves in specific sections.

“Throughout the nation, countless numbers of volunteers are assembling at the national cemeteries to remember all our fallen veterans … who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for the very freedoms we enjoy,” said Donald Farnam, president of the support committee at Calverton National Cemetery. 

The organization’s motto is “Remember, Honor and Teach,” because the day is meant to be a teaching moment when everyone can learn something about the sacrifices veterans have made.

“Someone once said that to be killed in war is not the worst thing that can happen. To be lost is not the worst thing that could happen. But to be forgotten is the wors thing can happen,” Mr. Farnam sad. “Therefore, we honor our veterans by placing wreaths and stones today so their sacrifices can resonate with us.”

Wreaths Across America has been coming to Calverton National Cemetery since 2007. In its early stages, there was just a few hundred donations. In 2016, that number jumped into the thousands, with this year being the largest group yet. The event received an overwhelming number of supporters, with about 4,000 volunteers attending. 

“In past years we’ve had 1,500, maybe 2,000 people,” said Support Committee member Timothy Doran. “We were not expecting 4,000 with another thousand stuck out on the road.”

This year, he said, they were more organized and the event was more heavily publicized that in past years, which led to unexpected crowds and traffic.

Every year, different decorated with wreaths bearing red bows. This year, older plot sections were the focus, along with the columbarium.

“We’re thrilled with all of our volunteers and the workers here at Calverton for doing a fine job,” Mr. Farnam said. “We represent 266,000 of our honored dead that are here.”

Civil Air Patrol Cadets of the Long Island Group performed a ceremonial laying of the wreaths during opening ceremonies that included the national anthem and placement of a ceremonial wreath, an American flag and service flags representing each service branch. Then, volunteers were assigned their own sections to help lay wreaths at individual graves. About 5,000 boxes of nine wreaths each were delivered. 

“We’re very proud as the Town of Riverhead to host Calverton National Cemetery in our community,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said during the opening ceremonies. “Today we need to take a moment to be grateful for the gift  that all those that are laid to rest here have done for us and their country, and their service in the armed forces.”

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