CAHS Patriots lay more than 400 wreaths at national cemetery
By Judy Kroeger
Published: Monday, Dec. 12, 2011
A cold wind blew the promise of winter as row by row family members and volunteers placed wreaths against 4,000 of the marble tombstones at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies on Saturday as part of Wreaths Across America. This national movement honors late veterans in more than 700 cemeteries in all 50 states.
"You're on sacred ground," cemetery director Ron Hesdtalen told the hundreds gathered at the Bridgeville site to honor the fallen during a brief ceremony before the wreath laying. "Take a second to read the headstone as you place the wreath, because every headstone has a story."
Brother Damien Murkley, OFM, chaplain of the Catholic War Veterans, Uniontown, offered a prayer of remembrance for those who had given "the last full measure of devotion" and asked that God would "bless us that we might work for a world full of peace." Murkley served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean Conflict.
MSGT John Kenes, 87, retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. "Thank you all for this great turnout on this day for honoring our fallen comrades. It's good to see so many people, especially families with young children."
Among those honoring veterans on Saturday were 42 members of the CAHS Patriots, who had sold 412 wreaths. The Connellsville group first sold wreaths in 2008.
English teacher Linda Shearer founded the CAHS Patriots in 2003 and the group reaches out to armed service members by sending thousands of packages to those serving in the Middle East; to veterans by honoring them with a meal and ceremony each Veterans Day and to those who have passed by participating in the wreath-laying ceremony.
CAHS Patriots President Kelsey Conn, a senior from Connellsville, has participated in Wreaths Across America for three years. She joined the organization because "it was a really good cause and a way to give back to those who put their lives on the line for us."
Senior Miranda Hosfelt of Bullskin has been a member of the Patriots throughout her high school career. "This is my third time here," she said. "We try to sell as many as we can. I joined the Patriots because you get to meet and help a lot of people."
"This is my second year with the Patriots," said Denni Claycomb of Vanderbilt, a junior. "My family are veterans and it's important to me to remember all veterans' service."
"It's a privilege to be part of this," Shearer said, her devotion warming a cold autumn day.
The National Cemetery of the Alleghenies has been in existence since 2006. It marks the final resting place for 5,409 veterans.
Hestdalen looked at the rows of white stones decorated with evergreen branches and red bows. "It just gets bigger every year," he said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.