It was a cool, maybe even cold morning by San Diego standards, as some volunteers began to arrive just before sunrise at the Miramar National Cemetery on Saturday, December 12. Their purpose was to support Wreaths Across America, which took place in national cemeteries across the country.
Though the event was scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m., folks began arriving as early as 7:20. Volunteer groups included Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Junior ROTC, Sea Cadets, Young Marines, Daughters of the American Revolution, Civil Air Patrol Cadets, and even Junior Miss Mission Valley and her court. Veterans of all branches were noted in their sweatshirts and ball caps. There were also many family members of those lain to rest at Miramar.
As the public arrived, members of the Patriot Guard Riders helped guide traffic to the parking areas and then directed folks to the ceremony. Under the crystal-blue sky, with the occasional Marine Corps fighter and Osprey seen launching from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, hundreds gathered to listen to comments from speakers.
As keynote speaker rear admiral Mark Rich, commander, Navy Region Southwest, told the gathering, “Across the nation today, 100,000 volunteers are placing 750,000 wreaths at the gravestones in our national cemeteries.” Regionally, similar events were taking place at the Fort Rosecrans, Riverside, and Los Angeles national cemeteries.
After the speeches, representatives of all the armed forces, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, and the National Guard put ceremonial wreaths in place, with a special wreath placed for our POWs and the missing in action who have not returned.
After a piper rendered “Amazing Grace,” the Marine Color Guard fired a rifle salute. As all stood, the lone Marine bugler played “Taps,” the notes carrying across the crowd and rows of headstones. With the notes still softly on the slight breeze, the volunteers walked to different sections of the cemetery and began laying the wreaths.
At Miramar, 3300 wreaths would be placed. Unfortunately, since there are more than 7000 veterans and family members interred there, not every headstone would end up with one.