Columbia families, community honor veterans with wreaths for holiday season

ccope@thestate.comDecember 14, 2013 

— A Columbia woman placed a wreath with a red bow in front of her husband’s white headstone on Saturday at Fort Jackson National Cemetery.

Judy Emmons removed her gloves and embellished the wreath with gold leaves, a pine cone and silver ornaments.

“We miss him,” she said and shed a few tears after she had finished.

Despite the cold and rain, hundreds of local patriots helped place wreaths on the headstones at the cemetery as part of the Wreaths Across America event that took place across the country.

The event honors the veterans who can’t be with their loved ones during the holidays, like Emmons’ husband, Hermann P. Emmons, who was in both the Army and the Air Force and died of natural causes a couple of years ago at age 68.

“Without him, if you didn’t have (other) family, it would just be unbearable,” Emmons said.

Her sister-in-law, Pat Adams, and a few other family members attended the event with her. The cemetery had a crowd that Emmons said was different from when they usually visit, five or six times a year. When she comes at other times the cemetery is quiet and restful, she said.

Aside from the adornments, the wreath Emmons laid was nearly identical to all of the other wreaths laid at each grave in the many rows.

The cemetery has specific guidelines for any decorations, Emmons pointed out.

“It’s spectacular, they’re all rank and file even when they’re dead,” she said.

The bagpipes played out over the damp air courtesy of the Rev. Edward Wilkes, also a veteran.

Many of the people thanked him for playing. He said it’s nice to give back and continue serving the country.

Frances Skaggs stood by and held an umbrella over Wilkes. She had rung a bell as part of the formal ceremony. She protected the bagpipes from the rain, which fell at a steady, but light pace.

Jack Ward brought a Cub Scout pack out to help lay wreaths and teach them about patriotism and pride.

“No matter what the weather, you’ve still got to show your patriotism and honor those that served,” said Ward, who has been in the military for about 22 years and lives on Fort Jackson.

Throughout the ceremony booms could be heard from nearby Fort Jackson. Carol Davis, who organized the local Wreaths Across America, said she was told it was practice for different kinds of artillery.

“Training does not stop for our young soldiers,” Davis said.

Davis said the event helps families remember the fallen.

“It means everything to them that their loved ones are not forgotten,” she said.

It also means a lot to all of the other veterans, Davis said.

“It lets them know that they’re not going to be forgotten as well,” she said.

Debbie Roomsburg, an Army veteran and Patriot Guard Rider, stood by in a line of those with flags surrounding the graves.

She said the event made her extremely proud.

“We need all the patriots we can get today,” she said as an army of patriots battled the wet cold to make sure the veterans were remembered.


Reach Cope at 803-771-8657 or on Twitter @cassielcope.

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