A definite winter chill filled the air and foggy conditions lent an eerie atmosphere to the scene, but the cold and damp didn’t stop volunteers and members of Oakdale’s Cub Scout Pack 365 from taking part in Saturday’s Wreaths Across American program.
Oakdale’s Citizens Cemetery was one of the stops in the local region, with several wreaths placed on and near the graves of veterans, from all wars.
A program observed across the country at the same time on the same day, Oakdale also hosted a gathering this year. The morning ceremony on Dec. 19 featured the singing of the National Anthem by local performer Barb Findlay, remarks from representative Bob Lutz of Pacific Project Heroes – which coordinates the Wreaths program – some thoughts from Oakdale Mayor J.R. McCarty and the placing of several wreaths around the cemetery off East J Street.
Both Melinda Owen of the cemetery board and Cubmaster Anna Wooten said they had planned to do fundraising during 2020 to raise enough money to place a wreath on the grave of each veteran in the cemetery. Unfortunately, the two said, the unexpected arrival of COVID-19 this past spring hampered those plans.
Next year, in a cooperative effort that will also include Pacific Project Heroes, they are hoping to place more than 800 wreaths at the cemetery for the national observance of Wreaths Across America day.
Among those attending the ceremony this past Saturday was Oakdale resident Lee Schmidt, a Vietnam veteran, who has been active in the VFW and has also been part of a unit doing a 21-gun salute at the local cemetery. He noted that he served “all over Vietnam” in 1969 and was glad to see the young Cub Scouts taking part in the placing of wreaths on a cold Saturday morning.
“It’s good, I think it’s teaching these kids a lot and I’m proud of these kids,” he said.
Scouts participating included his grandchildren, 6-year-old Audrie Silva and older brother Brayden Silva, 9.
Wooten added that many Scout families came to take part in the effort and it is something they will continue to do in the years to come.
“This is a national event,” she pointed out. “We do it on the same day, use the same script (for the program) in all the places.”
She also noted that one attendee had a father and a grandfather – both veterans – buried at the local cemetery.
Making sure they can fundraise and get enough wreaths so each veteran has their own next year will be tops on her list, Wooten said.