Remembrance wreaths will be laid at the Roseburg National Cemetery Annex Saturday, as Douglas County residents join communities across the nation in honoring veterans.
Locally, the Wreaths Across America Day is in its 11th year. The ceremony begins at noon at the Roseburg National Cemetery Annex flagpole.
This year’s event will begin with seven large balsam wreaths — one representing each branch of the military and one for soldiers who have been prisoners of war or missing in action — being carried through the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center on the front of motorcycles ridden by the Southern Oregon Patriot Guard Riders. The organizers want to be sure veterans in transitional care and mental health parts of the hospital who are unable to attend get a chance to see the wreaths.
The riders will form a flag line and the wreaths will be carried through the line by veterans of each branch of the military.
John McDonald, Roseburg city councilor and past president of the Douglas County Veterans Forum, will be the guest speaker.
Linda Mooney is co-captain of the Southern Oregon Patriot Guard Riders and president of the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America Umpqua Valley Chapter 805. Both groups are working together to put on the event.
Mooney said the seven wreaths will be laid on stands under the flagpole and will remain there until after New Year’s Day. Each of the wreaths bears the U.S. flag and the flag of the military branch it honors.
The ceremony is open to the public, and Mooney said participants are welcome to bring their own wreath or wreaths to lay on the graves of loved ones or other soldiers at the Roseburg National Cemetery and the Cemetery Annex at the end of the ceremony. Bringing a wreath isn’t required, though, and members of the public are encouraged to attend with or without a wreath.
“We also ask the community to take a little bit of time and just walk through and read some of the headstones and try to get some of the information about the person there. So in turn that person lives on. The memory of that person lives on, whether they have someone from their family there or not,” Mooney said.
Mooney said she hopes parents will see this as an educational opportunity for kids as well, so they can learn about the people who were either killed in action or died later, after giving service to their country.
“What we’re trying to do is just educate them, and say you know it’s OK to take out a little bit of time and think about this part, what happened to get you that freedom and keep that freedom and to show that honor. It doesn’t take very long, but it’s very important and it means a lot to the families,” Mooney said.
She said Christmastime can be tough on families whose veteran loved ones have died.
“By being there and showing them this honor, we’re also putting our arms around them and helping them during this time to know that they’re not alone,” Mooney said.
Mooney said she recommends people bring chairs so they can sit comfortably during the event, which lasts about an hour.
Wreaths Across America is a Maine-based nonprofit organization. It coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies every December at Arlington National Cemetery and in all 50 states, and it provided at no cost the seven wreaths for the Roseburg ceremony.