To Serve & Honor: Wreaths for Our Deceased Veterans


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The second Saturday in December is Wreaths Across America Day. In what had started out as a quest by a Maine wreath maker to place a wreath on every grave in Arlington National Cemetery has now spread to 110,000 memorial sites across the country including Elmwood Cemetery in North Brunswick.

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Including the earliest conflict to establish this nation, 650 veterans have their final resting place in Elmwood Cemetery. As a veteran, I know the feeling of being away from home on Christmas. On Dec. 21, several hundred people gathered at Elmwood to remember and pay homage to those who have missed many days of Christmas warmth at home with their families. We can think of the many inhospitable places where these veterans served during the Christmas holiday, and now they are home for good.

When we think of “Freedom not being free” we often only refer to those who made the supreme sacrifice. However, all veterans have made a sacrifice. Today, as in the past, whether on land, sea or in the air, members of our Armed Forces are doing their jobs on outposts around the world to keep our freedom secure. At Christmas time, we should think of our most valuable gift – that of freedom.

A wreath for a resting veteran is a small token of our remembrance of his sacrifice.

During the course of World War II and the Korean War, more than 20 million people served in the Armed Forces of the United States during the holiday season. The conditions most times were far from ideal; however, the Army tried to make the day as festive as possible with a menu from “soup to nuts”. I am sure the other branches of the military did the same. The only thing that was missing was “home”.

Many of the Christmas songs we enjoy today came from that era. Think of a serviceman in a far off land or on a choppy sea as you sing and listen to these songs. That is the cost of freedom. Many of these servicemen and women are home now and more a coming every day. A wreath placed on their grave is a warm deserved welcome home for Christmas.

Richard Pender is the senior vice commander of American Legion Post 459 in North Brunswick. He writes the occasional column for Newspaper Media Group. He can be reached at

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