Sleet, chilly winds and freezing temperatures weren’t enough to keep friends and family members of deceased veterans from honoring their departed loved ones in a ceremony on Saturday morning at the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery on Bagging Plant Rd. in Dublin.
The ceremony, held by the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery Volunteers, is the first of what they intend to make an annual event. It was held at the cemetery’s shelter, offering some of the attendees shielding from the weather.
The ceremony featured several solemn elements, including music performed by the 29th Division of the National Guard Band, the entrance of the wreaths on the Volvo Ride for Freedom Truck with motorcycle escorts, speeches by Master of Ceremonies Brig. Gen. Scott Van Cleef, USAF Ret., the pledge of allegiance led by Snowville Troop Number 51 and Roanoke Troop Number 352, the national anthem sung by Mike Whitlow, an invocation by Pastor Mike Honaker of River of Life Pentecostal Church (USMC), the posting of the colors by the DAV Roanoke Valley Honor Guard, a welcome from Dublin Mayor Benny Skeens, and guest speaker Paul Galanti, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services and a former POW.
The ceremony concluded with a rifle salute by the American Legion Post 58 and “Taps” by the band, before bagpiper Andrew Shield played “Amazing Grace” and the attendees walked out in the sleet, stopping at different sections of the cemetery to lay out wreaths at the veterans’ gravesites.
“At Christmas, there’s a gift-giving tradition that a lot of us have gotten in the habit of thinking is what Christmas is about,” said Skeens during his welcome. “I think we lose sight, a lot of the time, that the greatest gift we have was provided by the men and women who have given their lives, and their service, to our country. The gift of freedom is something a lot of people in this world don’t have.”
Several local politicians were also in attendance. After the ceremony, Del. Joseph Yost said, “It’s a cold day, obviously, but you could feel the warmth here, and it’s good to have everybody from the community out, those who are deceased and those who are still with us.”