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Wreaths Across America event in Clinton Township continues to grow

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published December 11, 2018

 Col. Scott Davis, who is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition Logistics and Technology, speaks in 2014 about freedoms gained because of current, past and future members of the military.

Col. Scott Davis, who is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition Logistics and Technology, speaks in 2014 about freedoms gained because of current, past and future members of the military.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — In its ninth year, Wreaths Across America has connected organizers, veterans and civilians in a manner that exudes honor, respect and patriotism. The event, which is venerated nationally, fuses those who have served with those who currently serve, and others, like youth groups and organizations.

This year’s event will commence at 10 a.m. Dec. 15 at Fern Hill Country Club, 17600 Clinton River Road in Clinton Township. Retired Col. Bryan McVeigh will be the special recognition master of ceremonies.

Also, special Vietnam War 50th anniversary pins will be presented, honoring Vietnam-era vets who served between Nov. 1, 1955, and May 15, 1975. Three pins were given last year. This year, Khrystyna Horne — the widow of former soldier Woody Horne — will receive one.

A noon ceremony will follow across the road at Resurrection Cemetery, 18201 Clinton River Road. Christina England will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner;” Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon will be the master of ceremonies; and members of local groups, including the American Legion and local Scout troops will be present. Taps will be performed.

The event has come a long way. In 2012, about 728 wreaths were laid in Resurrection. In 2017, that number jumped to nearly 2,700 wreaths. This year, more than 3,000 wreaths are expected to be laid.

“I think more and more people are finding out about (the event), and they realize it’s such an awesome thing to do to make sure our veterans are not forgotten,” event organizer Karen Straffon said. “It’s a simple thing to place a wreath. I think we have more and more Scout and youth groups because the Scout masters want kids to learn what (vets) have done.”

Mario Musotto, who conducts communications for the event at Resurrection, said the marketing for the event has gotten better and better. That includes pre-printed postcards, media attention, word of mouth, and participation from local military personnel and youth organizations.

Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, program executive officer of Ground Combat Systems, is this year’s guest speaker. He has served in numerous positions, including with the 1st Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division. His service education includes the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, U.S. Army Airborne School, U.S. Army Air Assault School, U.S. Army Ranger School, and Command and Staff College. He has been honored for efforts related to Iraq and Afghanistan, among others.

Straffon said Cummings is in charge of developing all combat vehicles for U.S. military worldwide.

Not far from Resurrection, another ceremony will take place at noon at Clinton Grove Cemetery, 21189 Cass Ave. in Clinton Township. That ceremony will begin at the mausoleum and then move toward the flagpole.

Clinton Grove General Manager Walter Stephenson said the event is a prime opportunity for elders teaching youths, in the form of “respect, honor and teaching” them about sacrifices personnel have made for decades.

Fundraising efforts have proven successful, he said, with wreath orders surpassing 800 by Dec. 7. The usual number hovers around 550.

Second Lt. Mike Gibbons, of the Civil Air Patrol, echoed Stephenson in regard to the children — especially during the 100-year anniversary of World War I and giving back to the community.

“We get better as a community, and we need to pay it forward. … For me personally, it’s more about the kids that I’m around in Civil Air Patrol, to show them the honor and to teach respect,” Gibbons said. “That’s what it’s about. You honor those who served before you, you remember those who have gone, and you teach the next generation about freedom and the sacrifices that were given.”

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