Each carrying a decorated evergreen wreath, they walked past members of the Umpqua Valley chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, each holding an American flag. One at a time, veterans placed seven wreaths on stands near the flag pole at the Roseburg National Cemetery Annex on Saturday.
Each stepped back and saluted the wreaths as part of national Wreaths Across America Day.
Each wreath represented a branch of the U.S. military, including the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. The seventh wreath honored veterans of all branches who were missing in action or prisoners of war.
For Bob Lake of Roseburg, who served in the Air Force from 1956 to 1960, laying the Air Force wreath was a way to remember his grandson, Cpl. James Moore.
“I’ve always been patriotic, and after we lost our grandson I became more aware of it and wanted to honor him and the rest of the fallen heroes,” Lake said. Moore died while serving in the U.S. Marines a week before his 25th birthday in January 2005.
“James was the first one in Douglas County we lost in Iraq,” Lake said. Moore’s photo is featured on the side of the Wall of Honor trailer used by the Patriot Guard Riders during memorial events in Oregon. Lake said he has carried a wreath before for Wreaths Across America and it was an honor to do it again.
“We need to show our fallen heroes all the honor and respect we can give them,” he said. “They paid the price so we can be free.”
The Patriot Guard Riders and Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America organized the ceremony in Roseburg, now in its 12th year.
Linda Mooney, president of the Patriot Guard Riders, said the fresh evergreen wreaths are a symbol of honor and a living tribute to all veterans and active military members.
“We do it for veterans we have here in the community and those who have passed before us,” Mooney said. She added Wreaths Across America Day is also meant to teach children about the significance of paying respect to veterans.
“Hopefully they’re seeing these things and realizing how important it is to all of us and hopefully it becomes important to them too,” Mooney said. She encouraged the audience to visit a grave site, take down the name of the veteran and research them so their name and memory can continue on.
After the ceremony at the cemetery’s annex in the Roseburg Veterans Affairs campus, the veterans laid wreaths at the original cemetery off Harvard Avenue.
The wreaths will remain up at the Roseburg National Cemetery Annex until Jan. 1.