Nov 2, 2013

Wreaths Across America - A Day to Remember

On the foggy morning of Saturday, December 11th, when most teenagers would rather be sleeping, the Civil Air Patrol Cadets of Squadron 44 in Concord, California found themselves walking amongst the graves in the National Cemetery at the Presidio in San Francisco.
Category: General
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By:C/SMSgt Jesse Case, April Winship, Lt Col Frank Opelski and 1st Lt Guy Michael

On the foggy morning of Saturday, December 11th, when most teenagers would rather be sleeping, the Civil Air Patrol Cadets of Squadron 44 in Concord, California found themselves walking amongst the graves in the National Cemetery at the Presidio in San Francisco. They were continuing a tradition of honoring our Nation’s veterans with an evergreen wreath.


Joining the Civil Air Patrol to honor the veterans were a bagpiper and mounted officers of the San Francisco Police Department, members of the San Francisco Fire Department with a fire engine, mounted officers of the U.S. Park Service Police and veterans representing all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Participants also included members of the Navy Sea Cadets, Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution, the U.S. Volunteers of America and the Boy Scouts of America. The event was covered by print and TV media.

Crowd favorites were the San Francisco Police Department mounted police and the U.S. Park Service mounted police, impeccably poised on their well groomed and patient horses and a San Francisco Fire Department fire engine.



After the Civil Air Patrol Color Guard and the Navy Sea Cadet Color Guard presented the colors, Cadet Airman Quincy Winship led the guests in the Pledge of Allegiance, San Francisco Bay Area vocalist Martin Cantu sang the National Anthem, and a moving invocation by Chaplain Tom Gutshall of the U.S. Volunteers, the ceremony to honor our veterans began.

Some words carry weight, they are heavy with emotion and conjure forth powerful images. None more than words such as sacrifice, duty, honor, courage and freedom, and that morning those words echoed off the grey tombstones on the hallowed grounds of the Presidio with the thankful hearts of all those gathered. Because of sacrifices by our veterans, our freedom remains. C/SMSgt. Jesse Case expressed it best, “If we forget the price paid for freedom, we forget its value. Once freedom has been devalued, people give it away needlessly, and the nation decays.”

As Civil Air Patrol cadets and Navy Sea cadets joined by family members and friends, placed each wreath, a moment of silence was observed and a salute was rendered, and this otherwise somber and grey place quietly became ablaze in red and green. To remember and gives thanks to each veteran during December has been a mission of thesecadets for the past two years.

Over 1500 wreaths were laid at Presidio National Cemetery.

The mission began in the fall with guidance from a team consisting of CAP senior officers and parents of cadets. Activities Officer 2nd Lt Edgar DeLeon served as the project officer. This year a goal of sponsoring 1000 holiday wreaths was set. Squadron 44’s motto
is “No challenge, Unchallenged!”, and the cadets set to work, to meet their new challenge. For many cadets this meant stepping outside of their usual comfort zones to write speeches and organize presentations, sometimes given in front of hundreds of people, to bring awareness of the program and obtain sponsors for wreaths. The cadets brought the message of Wreaths Across America whose mission is to: remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach children the value of freedom, to local business leaders, clubs, churches, schools, neighbors, friends and family, and in doing so, they learned more about themselves.

With generous donations from numerous companies, organizations and individuals, the cadets based at Buchanan Field in Concord, with the strong support of their parents surpassed the goal of 1000 wreath sponsors. C/SSgt Mitchell Dobin obtained sponsors for over 600 wreaths, C/Amn Alex Broom obtained over 300 sponsors and C/Amn Quincy Winship obtained over 300 sponsors. A total of over 1500 holiday wreaths were placed against the headstones of our veterans as a reminder to all, that we will never forget those who serve. The symbolism and message broadcast on that chilly winter morning was clear, the freedom every American enjoys, came, and still comes... at great sacrifice.


C/TSgt Stephano Rahimzadeh renders a salute after laying a wreath.

As we surveyed the hundreds of wreaths stretching across the hills of the Presidio, and with a verse of “Amazing Grace” played by the bagpiper still in my head, and the sound of Taps drifting across the lawns, I felt sure that each cadet took away more than they expected from the experience. The lessons of courage, sacrifice, responsibility, duty and love of country were clearly carried out that morning. A challenge was met and the mission was accomplished.

There are 30,000 graves at the Presidio National Cemetery so the goal for 2011 will be far more ambitious than the 1000 wreaths goal set for 2010. Wreaths Across America began in 1992 with the donation of 5,000 holiday wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery by the Worchester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine. In 2005, a dramatic photograph taken by an Air Force photographer appeared on the Internet and inspired thousands of requests from  people all over the country wanting to emulate the Arlington Wreath Program at their
local national and state veterans cemeteries, leading to the creation of Wreaths Across America. In this way all across America, in 24 foreign cemeteries, and aboard Navy ships at sea, our fallen were honored and remembered in simultaneous ceremonies held  on December 11th.

To learn more about Wreaths Across America, visit


Members of CAP Squadron 44 at Presidio National Cemetery

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