Against a backdrop of foggy skies and a bitter winter chill, dozens of volunteers turned out for Saturday’s poignant Wreaths Across America program at the Oakdale Citizens Cemetery.
Staged across the country this past weekend, the effort looks to place a wreath on the grave of every veteran and there were over 1,000 to be placed at the East J Street cemetery on Dec. 17.
Donations are accepted throughout the year for the wreaths, with many of the wreaths also sponsored by families or community organizations.
Oakdale Scout Troop 42 Scoutmaster Doug Creekpaum served as emcee; the ceremony prior to the laying of the wreaths on the graves also featured an invocation from Pastor Henry Raven – a veteran himself – and the singing of the National Anthem by Barb Findlay. Scouts from Troop 43 presented the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance was led by members of Cub Scout Pack and Scout Troop 365 and several members of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets group out of Modesto were also in attendance.
“This nation has always been the first to stand up for the freedom of people from around the world,” noted Creekpaum. “Many of you here today have answered that call and served your country well. For this, we thank you. We are honored to know you.”
Creekpaum offered some information on the Wreaths Across America program to those attending, many bundled up against the blustery winter weather. Several wreaths were then placed near the flagpole at the cemetery, representing various branches of the military, as well as one to commemorate Gold Star families and one for those still missing in action or prisoners of war. Wreaths were laid for those in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, the U.S. Space Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and the National Guard.
Creekpaum also opened up the microphone to any representatives of local veterans organizations that wanted to share a few words and the playing of Taps was featured as well.
Then the invitation was extended for families with veterans buried at the cemetery to take a wreath and place it on the grave of their loved one; followed by dozens of volunteers lining up to take a few wreaths and place them around the cemetery. The graves of veterans were signified with small American flags and cemetery representative Melinda Owen said there were enough wreaths to ensure each veteran got one.
There were also pastries, hot coffee and hot chocolate for attendees and the program served to highlight the sacrifices that veterans and their families make in service to this country.
And despite the cold temperatures, Creekpaum said everything went smoothly, Oakdale serving as just one small piece of a nationwide recognition effort.
“It was very good,” Creekpaum said. “Couldn’t have gone better.”