AFJROTC remembers veterans, joins Wreaths Across America


photo or infographic by Kori Elise Rushing

WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA. Graves at the Houston National Cemetery are adorned with wreaths after the volunteers spend the morning honoring the veterans in 2021.

On a cold, winter day, the volunteers take the evergreen wreaths and place them with respect and honor to the endless rows of graves. The names of the men and women etched on the stone are not known to AFJROTC students who are spending their Saturday at the Houston National Cemetery as part of Wreaths Across America.

Wreaths Across America coordinates wreath­-laying ceremonies at more than 3,400 locations across the United States, at sea and abroad. An organization throughout the world that honors veterans with the mission to remember, honor and teach, their goal is to remember, honor and teach people of the importance for veterans who sacrificed their lives fighting.

Each December on National Wreaths Across America day over 3,400 locations are designated to honor veterans and their legacies and families by celebrating wreath laying ceremonies in their memory. Members of the AFJROTC will be some of the volunteers at the Houston National Cemetery. 

Honoring and remembering the fallen soldiers and veterans of war has spread through schools in another local, communal way. 

“I’ve heard of Wreaths Across America,” junior Ashley Flowers said. “JROTC here represents and celebrates its purpose of remembering and honoring the military in some way.” 

The importance of remembering the sacrifice soldiers made and honoring their memory and their families is immense to vets, parents, family, and the people. 

Supporting the cause through either donating or honoring the fallen soldiers brings respect to veterans and families of the fallen. 

“I buy a wreath every year from one of our ROTC cadets,” social studies teacher Michael Robinson, a veteran of the Marines, said. “I am happy to donate and support this as it is a wonderful cause. The show of support for the military from these volunteers and the end result of the ceremonies brings a sense of pride that cannot be understated. Additionally, family members of the fallen often feel very honored to have their loved one remembered, even taken care of, during the holiday season which can be especially difficult for the families of fallen victims.” 

By donating a wreath, the memory of a veteran is kept alive. Those donating can sponsor a wreath in honor or in memory of a man or woman who has served in any military branch.

“I support Wreaths Across America,” biology teacher Jason Manning, an Army veteran, said. “It is a way to remember and honor veterans that may not have family left to remember them. It keeps the memory alive of the service members that have done their duty and sacrificed to ensure the freedoms that we have are not lost. The wreaths are a small symbolic message saying ‘you are not forgotten’.” 

Understanding the protection and sacrifice the military provides for the people of America will allow a clearer mind to distinguish the importance of Wreaths Across America and other ways to show respect and honor the soldiers that have lost their lives and the families of those fallen soldiers. 

“There are so many positives to this organization,” Robinson said. “The most important thing for me, and the reason I support our ROTCs participation, is that young adults aspiring to serve their country can see the large price we have paid as a country to maintain our freedoms and lifestyle. Oftentimes it seems like the ‘thank you for serving’ or ‘the military is our heros’ business is just paying lip service and being politically correct without truly understanding the sacrifice of not only veterans but also their families. I have walked through the endless graves of Arlington cemetery and it is a truly humbling experience when you consider how many lives were taken, and how many families are without their loved ones who sacrificed everything for the collective ‘us’.” 

It warms my heart to see our aspiring military candidates take an active interest in supporting those that came before them”

— Michael Robinson, Marine veteran

Wreaths Across America is spreading to the student body as memorial day and the holidays approach. 

“I recently heard about Wreaths Across America for the first time,” senior Julia Humphries said. “I think that this organization and what it represents is important because of the remembrance and appreciation for those who died as heroes for our country. The most important part of this organization teaches others about the stories of veterans and highlights the sacrifices that these soldiers had made.” 

Honoring those that have fallen through Wreaths Across America brings warmth to the heart and peace to the soul. 

“It warms my heart to see our aspiring military candidates take an active interest in supporting those that came before them,” Robinson said. “I have two friends from college that did not make it out of Iraq/Afghanistan- our class toasts them once a year at our reunion, and it is a special and emotional event. To know that somewhere someone is taking it a step further and placing a wreath on their tomb warms my heart. Though their story may not be widely known, those of us who knew them well and are unable to make a trip to visit their burial site in person every year appreciate the gesture on our behalf. I know that for the parents of Joseph Fite and the wife of Jonas Kelsall this small token of gratitude goes a long way.”