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SWVA Veterans Cemetery holds wreath-laying ceremony

By DAVID GRAVELY

editor@southwesttimes.com

Each day in the United States military begins and ends the same way; a formation is held to account for members of each unit, disseminate information and assign tasks.

Members of the military buried in the nation’s Veterans Cemeteries rest in a final formation, allowing their loved ones to remember and honor them in a dignified manner.

Saturday was one of those days of reflection and remembrance as Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery held its annual wreath laying ceremony in Dublin.

Mary Lou Summers, chair for Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery Volunteers, leads a group responsible for organizing and funding this annual ceremony.

“The wreaths we place at each marker are made possible through the generosity of individuals and organizations,” she said. “Each year the number of wreaths we place grows. This year we placed 855, and that will continue to grow. We are very thankful for those who help us make this happen each year.”

Prior to the ceremony, those in attendance were treated to the 29th Division Virginia Army National Guard Band playing a selection of Christmas music.

The wreaths entered the cemetery under escort of the United Auto Workers Ride for Freedom Truck and UAW Local 2069 Motorcycle Escort, along with local law enforcement.

After a brief introduction by Col. Rick Littleton, who served as master of ceremonies, Virginia State Police Color Guard presented the colors and Roanoke Battalion U.S. Navy Sea Cadets led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Friar Wade Miller of St. Phillips Anglican Church in Blacksburg gave the invocation and Dublin Mayor Benny Skeens read a poem as part of the opening remarks and welcome. Pulaski County native and retired Col. Dallas Cox was guest speaker.

The Military Officers Association of Southwest Virginia placed special wreaths for each branch of the military before families were allowed to lay wreaths on the graves of their loved ones. Retired Lt. Col. Arthur Sommers represented the Army, retired Col. Tomas Dalzall placed the Marine Corps wreath, retired Capt. Gary Powers represented the Navy, Col. Mark Clark was on hand for the Air Force and retired CWO3 David Dillon represented the Coast Guard.

Retired Lt. Col. James Flynn also placed a special wreath for Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action.

As the formal portion of the ceremony came to a close, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Rifle Team rendered a 21-gun salute; a member of the 29th Division Virginia National Guard Band played “Taps,” and Andrew Shields played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipe during the walk to the markers.

“It’s important that we remember our veterans and their families all year, but Christmas is one of the times we want to bring those memories of our lost loved ones closer,” Summers said. “Our staff of 22 volunteers works tirelessly to help fund this and our other special events throughout the year. It’s a labor of love. We each have a special reason for being here. Some of us have family members buried here, some of our members are veterans themselves.”

In addition to those 22 volunteers, there are also other volunteers who commit time each year to helping with special events. They give their time to help guide visitors, hand out wreaths and assist anyone in need.

“Our group spends all year promoting the cemetery and helping educate people on what we have to offer,” Summers said. “We also include the young people in the community. We’ve been involved in the schools with educating students on patriotic and historic information about the military, our flag, our veterans and other service-related topics. We’ve brought out cadets to give demonstrations to students. We want to help educate people while providing a service to our many veterans.”

For information on how you can help this and other events, visit www.swvavcv.org or call 540-674-6893.

To see more photos from this and other events, visit www.facebook.com/TheSouthwestTimes.

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