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Remembering Our Fallen at Christmastime
SCHUYLERVILLE – On an uncommonly warm Saturday, December 12, upwards of 600 people gathered in the beautiful weather to lay 2,700 holiday wreaths at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery.
The ceremony began at noon at the main flagpole, consisting of the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, opening prayer, ceremonial wreath placing, recognizing all the military units and some fraternal organizations, and then closing remarks. All of the branches of the military were represented and participated in the services. The Cemetery provided a Civil Air Patrol color guard with 21-gun salute and the playing of taps.
There was a special wreath presentation at several of the graves, including for the nine who were killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, the grave of the unknown Civil War soldier, and the graves of three Medal of Honor recipients. The presentation was given by the Patriot Guard Riders and representatives of the Marine Corps League, as well as Gold Star families when possible.
Students from Schuylerville Middle School participated, placing homemade wreaths on the unclaimed remains of some Veterans.
“One of our ride captains, Joe Spodnick, has developed a nice relationship with those kids over the years,” said Bill Schaaf, Assistant State Captain of the Patriot Guard Riders. “Part of what this program is, it’s teaching about the history, about honor and respect. Joe took a teaching moment with the kids, and I think they enjoyed it.”
The Patriot Guard Riders of New York organize the annual event to remember fallen soldiers in concert with Wreaths Across America, the organization that trucks thousands of wreaths from Maine all across the country to ceremonies happening at noon local time on the same day in cemeteries nationwide. The event began locally 7 years ago; when 7 donated wreaths were placed on soldiers’ graves.
The Patriot Guard Riders hope to one-day place a wreath on all 13,000 graves at Saratoga National Cemetery. To that end, they have arranged with Wreaths Across America to receive one free wreath for every two wreaths purchased. To obtain the “buy two, get one free” deal, donors must purchase a wreath through the Wreaths Across America website and enter the code “NY0057”. To learn more about the program, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.