Christmas Wreaths—Honoring our Departed Soldiers

December 15, 2016 - Local history is full of wars. For Shelby County, service in such wars goes back to the American Civil War and since that time, many wars (including the local Regulator/Moderator War) have claimed the lives of some of our ancestors, friends, and loved ones. In a sense, our loss in Shelby County is a microcosm of the millions lost in all of America throughout the last four centuries. Sometimes it is proper to gain perspective of that, and now seems to be such a time.

It was only last evening that I discovered that the third Saturday in December (for this year, falling on this coming Saturday, Dec.17) is a very special day. On that day, every single grave in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC, will be adorned with Christmas wreaths (hundreds of thousands of them, including 5000 graves of unknown soldiers). And in addition, over 1100 sites across the county will, rather simultaneously, be treated the same. This act, by itself, demonstrates deep appreciation for veterans. It also recognizes, by a symbol of Christmas and the time it is being done, the fact that this nation was created with Christianity as a part of its foundation. We need not look back just to the founding fathers’ documents and quotations to realize this; indeed, it is reflected in this action every third Saturday of every year.

With a silent sense of urgency, I was taken by this news and planned a bit of action for myself and my family. On that day, with many of my living relatives gathering around me, I will take a Christian wreath (also adorned by red, white, and blue ribbons) to a cemetery outside of Longview and place it on the grave of my brother, Robert (1918-1944). Then, we will have a short Christian ceremony, not unlike the time he was first buried in France. I feel that these actions will simply be an extension of what will be happening at Arlington National Cemetery at about the same time. The thought is especially moving to me, and I suggest that, when you decide to take such action, the feeling will be similar. I know now that I will do it each year in order to be a small part of honoring those who lost their lives by protecting us.

Brother Robert, as a pilot of a B-24 bomber, was shot down and killed over France on July 12, 1944. Two days later (their Bastille Day) the local Frenchmen of the village of La Tour d’Aigues buried him within their city compound during a solemn ceremony, made a monument to honor him, and continue to remember him each year during their Bastille Day ceremonies. I know this because I was there two times as their guest. He was, after the war, re-buried in an American military cemetery in France, and then, in 1949, was buried a third time in the location of his youth and the home town of his widow—Longview. However, he was born in Center.