Photo by Melissa Huff Salvatore
Last Saturday 126 wreaths were laid on the graves at North Myrtle Beach Memorial Gardens. This was a first year event.
About 50 people waded through standing water last Saturday to lay 126 wreaths on the North Strand’s deceased military members, a first-year event at North Myrtle Beach Memorial Gardens in Little River.
Bob and Edie Sakowski uttered the names of Army Sgt. C. Devin Lewis, Feb. 2, 1945-Feb. 4, 1986, and Corporal Richard Brambles III, Jan. 28, 1966-May 6, 2007, after placing the wreaths on the strangers’ graves, as instructed by organizers.
Kathy Rice thought of her many family members who served, including a grandfather who died in World War II.
Commander Mike Speakmon’s daughter picked up a painted rock that read fire fighter, lying beside the wreathed grave of Marine Corporal Louie Jose Sauceda Jr., Aug. 28, 1979-June 19, 2008. “He was only 29,” a woman observed.
The tradition of laying wreaths started in Arlington National Cemetery, but through a new project, Wreaths Across America, local groups such as Grand Strand Civil Air Patrol, can emulate the tradition everywhere.
And the group chose North Myrtle Beach Memorial Gardens over Florence National Cemetery for its first event because “We felt like Horry County veterans deserved as much recognition,” said Grand Strand Civil Air Patrol Deputy Commander Eileen Kerr. “We thought North Myrtle Beach Memorial Gardens would be the best place to honor our vets”
The turnout of dozens of people in rain-slickers and rubber boots surprised Speakmon, especially given how deep the rainwater from Friday’s deluge was on the pavement and in the fields at the cemetery, located at Highway 90 where it meets Highway 9 in Little River/Longs.
“Our goal next year is to have a wreath for every veteran here,” he told the crowd after the wreaths were laid. People can go to the website, wreathsacrossamerica.org, and designate the location desired. The wreaths this year were purchased by sponsors and community members, he said.
Six ceremonial wreaths were set on display, one each for the military branches, and the last for the 93,129 missing military members labeled prisoner of war or missing in action. Each were done with great quietness and ceremony by a member of the Civil Air Patrol, who saluted after placing the wreath.
“We shall not forget you,” Speakmon said in the ceremony. “We shall remember, and remember not their death, but their lives.”
But even though most of the people laying wreaths did not know the person they were honoring, “we’re the patriotic type, and we came to thank everybody who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Bob Sakowski said.
“It’s a small thing, but” Edie Sakowski said, “My father was a Marine, he was wounded by a sniper in World War II in the Pacific, “so this does my heart good” to honor other servicemen.
Rice was thinking about so many of her family members who served. “My grandparents, parents, an aunt, everybody was in the military,” she said, including a grandfather who died in World War II. “And my husband is a Marine, he’s disabled.”
So important is it to Rice and her husband that everyone who served have an identifiable final resting place that they gave both of their burial plots to the local VFW. “We decided since we’re going to be cremated, we’d give ours to be used in case there’s a homeless veteran or someone who can’t afford a plot, that they at least have a final resting place here.”
To find out more information, go to the Grand Strand Civil Air Patrol website or the North Myrtle Beach Memorial Gardens site or Wreaths Across America.