“Teaching, remembering and honoring.”
That was the refrain as hundreds of volunteers placed 21,375 Christmas wreaths on headstones at Beaufort National Cemetery on Saturday.
“I expected 50 or 60 people, or maybe 100 wreaths,” said retired Marine Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, who addressed the crowd in a midday ceremony near the entrance to the cemetery.
The Wreaths Across America program was being marked at memorial sites in all 50 states, at sea and abroad, according to the event’s website.
Livingston entreated the Beaufort-area volunteers — from young to old — to remember the sacrifice made by those buried there.
“I want you to remember this is a very special person. They had a family. They had a life, and many times they were young people … but they were willing to give it all.”
Those in attendance observed a moment of silence in honor of 21-year-old Navy Airman Apprentice Cameron Walters of Richmond Hill, Georgia, who was killed earlier this month after a gunman opened fire on a military base in Pensacola, Florida. The Naval Hospital Beaufort color guard, which had been scheduled to participate in the ceremony on Saturday, instead was called to be part of the contingent escorting Walters’ body from the Savannah Hilton Head International Airport to the Richmond Hill Funeral Home.
As the clouds cleared and the sun warmed up the day, Master of Ceremonies Mark Eudy, a major in the Civil Air Patrol, gave volunteers their instructions.
“We are here to remember not their deaths but their lives,” he said. People were told to place the wreaths and then say the name written on the headstone in remembrance.
About an hour earlier, four semi-trucks driven from Maine had a motorcycle escort down Boundary Street and into the historic cemetery.
Boxes were unloaded from the trucks, and volunteers lined up to scoop up armloads of wreaths and walk them to each headstone.
Members of the Lowcountry Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, based on Hilton Head, helped hand out the wreaths and break down boxes at one of the trucks.
Deputy Commander Crystal Eudy, deputy commander with the patrol based on Hilton Head, said 24 cadets and 10 adults participated.
Also among the volunteers were members of the Emily Geiger Chapter of the National Daughters of the American Revolution.
“Most of our members have people buried here,” said Peggy Parker, the Bluffton group’s regent.
As the work at the cemetery neared completion, Joe Fulgieri and Lynn Crouse of Beaufort walked through one section checking for headstones that had been missed.
“I’ve done this for years,” Crouse said. “I love it.”
© 2019 The Island Packet
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