Volunteers honor veterans on Wreaths Across America Day

On a cold, wet, Saturday afternoon about 200 volunteers met at the Clarion and Immaculate Conception cemeteries to place wreaths on the graves of 130 veterans.

“Right now across the country groups have gathered to commemorate this day, National Wreaths Across America Day,” said Noreen Shirey, the Clarion Coordinator for Wreaths Across America. “We are united to remember, honor and teach.”

For Clarion County resident Richard Weaver the ceremony was deeply personal.

“When you look around at all of these people on a cold rainy day, it shows you just how special Clarion is,” said an emotional Weaver, the father of Rick Weaver who was killed during the attack on the U.S.S. Stark on May, 17 1987. “You are the people who make this country so special.”

Speaking to the many students in the crowd, Weaver said he hoped they understood that the freedoms they enjoy today are not free but come with a cost.

“Some day you too may serve this country,” he said. “I would like to remind you that every generation has done its duty to stand for liberty and freedom and some gave their lives in defense of our values. To be killed is not the worst thing that can happen to a soldier. The worst is to be forgotten. Remember to honor and teach.”

Ceremonial wreaths were presented for all of the branches of the armed forces, prisoners of war and those missing in action.

“The freedoms we have today did not come without a price,” said Clarion Mayor Bill Miller. “We thank those who sacrificed to keep us free. And we will not forget.”

Boy Scout Troop 51 posted the colors and soloist Erin Lewis sang the “Star Spangled Banner.” Later in the program she joined her daughter in singing “America the Beautiful.”

“Today we show a united front here in Clarion of gratitude and respect as we remember the fallen and honor those who served,” said Clarion County Commissioner Wayne Brosius.

Earlier in the week students of Immaculate Conception School and the Clarion Fire and Hose Company welcomed a semi-truck that delivered the wreaths to Clarion.

Wreaths Across America started in 1997 when Morrill Worcester of Maine was so touched by a visit to Arlington National Cemetery that he donated about 5,000 wreaths to the cemetery.

The Rimersburg American Legion and VFW provided taps and a rifle salute. Army veteran Josiah Fink led the traditional riderless horse down Second Avenue at the close of the observance.

“We have come here today to honor the men and women who have given their lives for the freedoms we currently enjoy,” said Dr. Rev. Deryl Larsen who provided the invocation. “We are the ones who are blessed.”