Pride, patriotism and appreciation: Marco’s Wreaths Across America ceremony

Chris Curle
Special to the Eagle

Patriotic songs and sentiments, prayers and a thrilling airplane flyover punctuated the 4th Annual Wreaths Across America Ceremony at the Marco Island Cemetery on Dec. 17.

Sponsored by Marco Island’s Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the Marco American Legion Post 404, it was one of thousands of memorial observances across the county, at sea and abroad to remember America’s military veterans who have died, to honor those who now serve and to teach children the value of freedom.

The program took off with the sight and sound of a Cessna 182 flyover, courtesy of Marco Island’s Civil Air Patrol and pilot Capt. Robert Boone and Mission Observer Lt. John Gannatti.

The ceremony began with The Pledge of Allegiance, followed by Tica Barrett’s exceptional version of the National Anthem and the Invocation by the Reverend Thomas McCulley, both of the New Life Community Church.

DAR Regent Sally Snyder, an army veteran herself, explained to the large crowd of people present that someone would place a wreath at the grave of every veteran buried at the cemetery.

“We are proud to be a part of this tradition,” she told the gathering. “And, thanks to all of you, we have a wreath to place on the grave of every fallen hero in this cemetery. They will never be forgotten.”

About 160 veterans are laid to rest there, going back to the Civil War.  Family members and volunteers walked to the designated graves to say the name of the veterans aloud, thank them for their service and then place a wreath on their grave. This brief ritual of appreciation is the cornerstone of all Wreaths Across America Ceremonies.

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Sally Snyder also acknowledged the students at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic school.

“As a veterans’ project, they raised enough money to contribute 25 wreaths for our ceremony today. Thank you for your contribution and your presence here today.”

DAR member Pat Hancock spoke briefly of the importance of the thousands of individuals who do their part in making Wreaths Across America the national expression of gratitude it has been since for 30 years.

The American Legion Post 404 1st Vice Commander, John Apolzan called on the Post’s representatives of each of the six branches of the military to lay a wreath at the monument dedicated to the American Armed Forces.  The branches are the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and, most recently, the Space Force.

Emily Savage sang God Bless America. She and her late husband Herb, a WWII veteran and one of the pioneers of modern Marco, have a decades-long history of singing a patriotic song at many of Marco’s special events.

The Wreaths Across America ceremony ended with a recording of TAPs by event DJ Rex De Jaager. And the wreath laying began.

The DAR has 180,000 members in 3,000 chapters worldwide.  Members are women 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a patriot in the American Revolution.

Marco’s DAR luncheon meetings are at 10:30 a.m., the third Thursday of each month. Members also meet casually between meetings, just for friendship and fun. Potential members and visitors from other chapters are welcome.

Contact Sally Snyder, sally.e.snyder@gmail.com, 319-530-5006

The Marco Island American Legion Post 404 has been welcoming veterans from all branches of the Armed Forces since 2014. The leaders say that joining is a way to continue serving God, Country, and Community. Information: marcoislandpost404.org.

The New Life Community Church is adjacent to and manages the Marco Island Cemetery. Senior Pastor Thomas McCulley invites you to visit newlife.org

Marco Island Senior Squadron SER-FL-376 of the Florida Wing, Civil Air Patrol is based on Marco Island. For more information, visit https://fl376.cap.gov.