Wreaths Across America honors veterans at Jordan Cemetery
Waterford — A Wreaths Across America ceremony was held at Jordan Cemetery for the second time, and the number of wreaths laid on the graves of veterans increased from about 500 last year to 720 this year.
The nonprofit Wreaths Across America was founded in 2007 to expand the wreath-laying effort at Arlington National Cemetery to cemeteries across the United States. The organization's tagline is "remember our fallen U.S. veterans, honor those who serve, teach your children the value of freedom." On Saturday, wreaths were laid at more than 1,400 memorial sites nationwide.
The theme this year was Be Their Witness, and retired Navy Master Chief Paul Dillon commented, "For the fallen, let us be witness that their service was not in vain. Let us demonstrate the value of sacrifice."
Freedom Riders USA, a public safety and military veterans motorcycle club, organized the event at Jordan Cemetery. Dozens of active-duty military personnel, veterans, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and ROTC members showed up in support.
For Allison Keck, captain of the Groton chapter of the veterans-assisting organization Team RWB, Wreaths Across America is one of the many ways she honors veterans to honor her late father. After serving 26 years in the Navy, he died from cancer 19 years ago.
Keck knew Edwin Rivera, who died in 2010 from injuries sustained in Afghanistan and was laid to rest in Jordan Cemetery, and she escorted another Gold Star family to his grave on Saturday.
Accompanying Keck was her boyfriend, Doug Capazzi, who served in the U.S. Army from 1998 to 2007. He said it's hard to put into words what an event like Wreaths Across America means to him but continued, "I've lost a lot of friends who are in the military, whether it was because they were overseas or they couldn't fight the battle when they got home."
In laying wreaths, he saw a headstone of a veteran who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and it led him to reflect.
"It's those people who paved the way, and those people who implemented the changes I experienced in the military," Capazzi said. He added, "I still consider every veteran in here a brother and a sister."
Before volunteers and families disbursed to lay the wreaths, there was a ceremony that included remarks from public officials and members of the military, a laying of a wreath for each branch of the military, a prayer from a Waterford Police Department chaplain and a rendition of taps.
Chaplain Ken Hall emphasized the value of teaching the younger generations "of the value and the cost of freedom," a theme that echoed across later speeches.
"We are free to vote for whomever we feel should be in government office, with no explanation needed," said retired Navy Senior Chief Bob Frizzola, master of ceremonies. "We have the right to succeed, and we have the right to fail at whatever endeavor we wish to pursue."
Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, noted that 60 miles or so away, his father lies in rest in a cemetery in Cheshire. He was a World War II and Korean War veteran, and a Purple Heart recipient.
Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, recalled that when she was a child, her father — who fought in World War II — took her to the Normandy American Cemetery. She said she'll never forget seeing the thousands of small white crosses there.
McCarty noted that, along with the wreaths placed in cemeteries across America, more than 9,400 were placed in Normandy.
Editor's Note: This version corrects the name of the cemetery in the photo captions.
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