Holiday wreaths create time to reflect and remember veterans

Wreaths Across America Day takes place on Saturday

ccampbell@newsobserver.comDecember 16, 2012 

— With November’s Veterans Day a distant memory, December doesn’t offer many occasions to honor those who served.

On Saturday though, hundreds of people across the Triangle took time out from the holiday shopping season to pay tribute at cemeteries in Wake County. They placed thousands of wreaths on the graves of veterans for Wreaths Across America Day, an annual tradition that started at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

“We recognize veterans specifically on Veterans Day, but families miss their loved ones most at the holiday season,” said Robin Simonton, director of Oakwood Cemetery, which participated in the event for the first time.

Oakwood started small this year, with 33 wreaths to spread among the 205 tombstones in its Field of Honor for veterans. But Simonton hopes to eventually get enough sponsors to decorate all Oakwood veterans’ graves – including the 1,400 Confederate soldiers buried nearby.

A similar ceremony at Raleigh National Cemetery in Southeast Raleigh, now in its sixth year, is the area’s biggest. The Samuel Johnston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) got enough donations for 1,338 wreaths at the Southeast Raleigh site that houses thousands of veterans.

Boy Scouts, high school ROTC units and the Rolling Thunder motorcycle club all participated in the event.

“It’s not just a DAR function, it’s for everyone,” organizer Sandra Rankin said. “The whole point is to remember, honor and teach.”

Across the country – including 22 sites in North Carolina – the Wreaths Across America organization estimated that 150,000 volunteers would place more than 400,000 wreaths Saturday.

But Charlie Silver, a Marine Corps veteran who spoke at the Oakwood event, urged the crowd not to focus on the number who fought and died for their country. “We ask you to take a moment and visit a gravestone,” then research the veteran online, Silver said. “You will find that they are real Americans with families, mothers, brothers and sisters. They were, and are, more than just a statistic.”

The Borash family sponsored a wreath for Andrew Joseph Borash, a World War II Army veteran who died of cancer three years ago. He served in the South Pacific and was stationed in Japan shortly after the war ended.

“He was just a 19-year-old kid and didn’t know what to expect,” said Borash’s widow, Terry Borash.

After the war, Andrew Borash always had a flag flying at his home.

“Now I fly my flag in honor of him,” daughter Marilyn Borash said.

The wreath ceremony is just one of the ways the Borash family keeps their father’s memory alive. They visit his grave at Oakwood often and each has a smiley face necklace to remember his constant optimism.

“It’s important that we don’t forget them, especially at the holiday time,” Terry Borash said.

Campbell: 919-829-4802

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