This last weekend, I had the opportunity to stop by Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery for Wreaths Across America. I knew quite a few people participating, and if you remember, we even did a live show about it. For me, it has always been about respecting those before me.
Sadly, I could not be on the show because I was very sick, but I digress. Up until this year, I had not had a chance to participate in WAA yet. I have always admired the photos containing rows of pure white headstones, each adorned with a green wreath and simple red bow. Yet, I had never been able to participate in person.
This year, however, I made it a mission to at least be out there for a few minutes. Or at the very, very least, ensure I stopped by while the wreaths were out. I accomplished my mission.
I managed to hit two events in one day, WAA being my second, and I was fully prepared to honor my brothers and sisters laid to rest. And so I did. I found one of the clubs I belong to that was participating and managed to get a few wreaths hung from my arms.
I then chose a small section and laid the wreaths, placing them as carefully as I could. I read each stone’s information and paid silent respects. The hustle and bustle of others around me was rather distracting, but it was also very heart warming to watch.
As I laid wreaths, I watched those around me of all sizes, ages, and backgrounds coming together to honor as many of the fallen as possible. Some speaking names out loud, some ensuring they absolutely did not step on the grave and others trying to fix wreaths that weren’t placed ‘just right.’
All in all, it was an amazing sight to see and we managed to fill up all of the section this particular club had sponsored. It was beautiful. And our wreaths were now gone, so it was time to go. At least for me.
The lines to leave the cemetery were already long. I will admit, I was being impatient as well. (If you know me, that particular detail is of no surprise.) Yet, I found myself sitting in a VERY long line of vehicles, mostly sitting still.
I watched people around the graves still hustling and bustling about. Some still had wreaths to lay, others reforming their rather large groups to confirm they were complete with their sections. And then, I saw him.
Kneeling, far away from others, over a particular grave. He had his arm on it and I could tell even at the distance I was at, he was crying. He spent a good few minutes sobbing over the grave and well, it looked like his lips were moving, but I was too far away to really tell.
After a little while, he steadily got up, wiped his face and moved swiftly back across the cemetery, where it looked like he met up with some other buddies. I had plenty of time sitting in my vehicle to watch all of this.
And it really sank in deep. Although I know people in that cemetery, I had detached myself for the ceremonial purposes of participation. And watching that man weep for his brother or sister in arms, well, it reminded me to take a strong, silent moment and really think about the purpose of WAA and the cemetery.
While the wreaths are a magical sight to see, they are more than just decoration. Everyone there, even if detached for ceremonial purposes and going through the motions, was there to pay respect and honor.
In that moment I was once again humbled by my surroundings and as I slowly crept my way out of the rest of the cemetery, I made sure to take in as many headstones as possible and pay my respects mentally. The hustle and bustle can be distracting, but it should never take you away from the true spirit.
As you continue through the holidays, I hope you are also reminded to stop and truly look around you and pay respect and honor. We owe so much to those who have gone before us.
May we never forget.