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Community Gathers To Lay Wreaths For Area Veterans
Volunteers turned out in a respectable number on Saturday, Dec. 18 to place wreaths on each of the gravesites of veterans at Oakdale Citizens Cemetery. Close to 900 wreaths were laid, with a moment of silence and words of gratitude spoken before presenting each one. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

It was a day which many will speak of for years to come and others will be grateful that it was able to happen.

On Saturday, Dec. 18 Oakdale community members, volunteers and families of veterans gathered at Oakdale Citizens Cemetery to participate in Oakdale’s program as part of the national Wreaths Across America event.

Just shy of 900 wreaths were laid on the gravesites of veterans at the local cemetery.

Thanks largely in part to early efforts of Scout Pack 365 under the leadership of Scout Leader Doug Creekpaum, a very small ceremony was first hosted last year.

The partnership of the cemetery, Pack #365 and Pacific Project Heroes led to this year’s overall event success.

Saturday morning a large group gathered for a ceremony, which was then followed by volunteers, as well as family members and veterans alike laying the wreaths.

Pastor Henry Raven conducted the prayer at the start of the ceremony and VFW Post 2922 Post Commander Dan Vigil presented the colors.

“Freedom comes with responsibility,” Raven said in the opening prayer. “And as you impress that upon our hearts, I pray that you’ll remember each and every day we pray for those who are serving.”

Leader Creekpaum served as the Master of Ceremonies of the event, also offering words of honor and wisdom following Pastor Raven’s prayer.

“There are millions of Americans gathering safely as one nation to remember, honor and teach,” Creekpaum said of the event.

Wreaths Across America is observed on the third Saturday of December each year at cemeteries across the United States. The event officially begins at noon at Arlington National Cemetery. Ceremonies throughout the U.S. host their event simultaneously with Arlington, so Oakdale’s began at 9 a.m., Pacific Time.

“We’re all proud to be Americans that live in a free society, made up of many people, from many walks of life, the freedoms we enjoy today have not come without a price,” he continued. “The United States of America was founded on the ideals of freedom, justice, and equality. Our nation stands as a shining beacon of liberty and freedom to the world. We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free.”

Symbolic wreaths for every branch of the service including NASA and Gold Star families were presented surrounding the flag pole of the cemetery. Representatives from each branch of service are on hand to place each wreath respectively.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” Creekpaum shared as he read a quote from former President Ronald Reagan.

“We don’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on to them do the same,” he continued with Reagan’s quote. “Or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States when men were free.”

Creekpaum noted to the crowd that the day was one of showing gratitude and respect across the United States.

“As we remember the fallen, honor those who serve and their families and teach the next generation the value of freedom,” he concluded.

Student Riley Esteveo was joined by Congressman Josh Harder in laying a wreath at the site of one of the oldest veterans at Oakdale Citizens Cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 18 as part of the Wreaths Across America program. Teresa Hammond/The Leader