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Wreaths Across America, U.S.’s ‘longest veterans parade,’ arrives Thursday

The lives of veterans no longer with us will be remembered today at 10 a.m. as trucks hauling balsam wreaths from Maine to Houston stop in Brookhaven for a brief layover.

The individual greeneries will be part of the National Wreaths Across America Day Saturday, but today’s ceremony at Easthaven Baptist Church on Hwy. 84 acknowledges the passing of the wreaths through Brookhaven, a relay point on “the country’s longest veterans parade,” said local organizer Terrence Turner.

“The biggest thing is to remember that all of our values and freedoms aren’t free,” he said. “There are individuals who sacrificed everything in their lives to be able to make it so we have those basic freedoms.”

Some of the wreaths will be laid on veterans’ graves in Copiah County Saturday, Sunday and Monday with the remainder headed to Houston National Cemetery for ceremonies Saturday.

At the wreath-passing ceremony today at Easthaven, which is open to the public, Turner will take possession of four wreaths — for the Lincoln County Veterans Marker, the Mississippi Highway Patrol headquarters in Jackson, the troops of the Mississippi Army National Guard and MIA veteran Capt. Danny Entrican.

Speakers include Sen. Sally Doty, Rep. Becky Currie and Rep. Vince Mangold, all Republican lawmakers from Brookhaven.

Students from Mississippi School of the Arts will perform the national anthem and “America the Beautiful.” Retired Army veteran Willie Buckels will play taps.

Lunch is provided by Riverwood Family.

Turner would like to see a large crowd at the ceremony.

“We ask for volunteers to come out to remember these brave individuals that gave their lives to this country and to honor them,” said Turner, who is an Army veteran. “The biggest thing is to teach our children the sacrifices made so that we may be able to speak freely and roam and do things that we want to do, even as controversial as being able to take a knee at the playing of the national anthem. All of those things are because of the soldier.”

Trucks will leave Brookhaven with an MHP and Patriot Guard escort to the Louisiana line, where they’ll continue to Amite, Louisiana, for a ceremony there. The convoy will also go to Opelousas then Houston, Texas. Patriot Guard riders and Louisiana and Texas state troopers will escort the trucks’ journey to Houston.

Volunteers are needed to help with the wreath-laying ceremonies Saturday in Wesson. Cathy Stroud with Socks for Heroes MS is organizing ceremonies at several Copiah County cemeteries.

More than 190 wreaths will be placed at graves in Wesson Cemetery during a ceremony that begins Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Doty and Currie will speak at the event.

During wreath-laying ceremonies, the name of the veteran is spoken, Turner said.

“It allows their legacy to live on by saying their name,” he said.

“Be Their Witness” is the 2018 national theme for Wreaths Across America.

“A person dies twice: once when they take their final breath, and later, the last time their name is spoken,” Turner said. “When we lay wreaths on veterans’ graves, we say their names.
We encourage every volunteer who places a wreath on a veteran’s grave to say that veteran’s name aloud and take a moment to thank them for their service to our country. It’s a small act that goes a long way toward keeping the memory of our veterans alive.”

Turner said the wreaths are not just a Christmas decoration.

“We are not here to decorate graves,” he said. “We’re here to remember not their deaths, but their lives.”

Stroud and other volunteers spent the year raising funds to purchase the wreaths for the ceremonies in Copiah County.

She solicits sponsorship from the Wesson Chamber of Commerce, and veterans’ families and raises money through roadblocks.

“We do whatever we can to ensure that each veteran

Wreath-laying ceremonies will also be held Saturday at Hazlehurst City Cemetery at 10 a.m. and Crystal Springs Cemetery at 2 p.m. On Sunday, ceremonies will be at Sardis Church Cemetery at 10 a.m., Sylvarena Baptist at 11 a.m. and Stronghope Baptist Church at 2 p.m.

On Monday there will be a ceremony at Georgetown Cemetery at 10 a.m. Wreaths will be laid at Beauregard Cemetery at 3 p.m., but without a ceremony, Shroud said.

Shroud believes its important that deceased veterans be remembered for their sacrifices and these ceremonies are one way to do that.

“It’s just so touching,” she said. “Because most of the vets interred in these cemeteries don’t have families left and to see them have a wreath to me is just awesome.”