GREENFIELD — A moment of silence, a small salute, and a quiet “rest in peace,” broke up the otherwise empty gray December afternoon Friday in Park Cemetery.
Along with an evergreen wreath, the small ceremony was conducted for 16 veterans’ graves in Park Cemetery as part of the “Wreaths Across America” program.
Started in Arlington National Cemetery, the program intended to honor fallen soldiers has spread across the country. With the help of the Greenfield Veterans Honor Guard, Stillinger Family Funeral Home sponsored the event for the first time in Hancock County.
“When you bury a veteran, it has a huge impact on you as a professional in the funeral home business,” said Jeannine Gray, Stillinger’s family service and community liaison, “even when you don’t know them.”
Through Stillinger, families of deceased veterans could purchase a wreath to be placed on the grave of their loved one. The national event was planned for today, but veteran members of the local honor guard conducted the ceremony Friday in anticipation of poor weather today.
Marine Corps veteran Ralph Hand took a quiet moment, standing at the foot of a soldier’s grave. Though he did not personally know Norris Borgman, Hand said there is a bond that ties together veterans who served in any branch.
“It’s an honor,” he said, “to come out here and honor these people that gave their life for our freedom.”
Hand was one of six honor guard members on hand to lay the wreaths.
The event is just one of many ways the honor guard is actively remembering veterans throughout the year. Commander Bob Workman said the group also places flags on graves throughout the cemetery at other times in the year and organizes the Avenue of the Flags presentation on Memorial Day.
“It’s always special when we can honor veterans,” Workman said. “That’s really what we do.”
In total, 18 wreaths were purchased this year; 16 were placed in Park Cemetery, and two more were laid at other local cemeteries. The wreaths cost $15 each, Gray said.
Gray said Stillinger will sponsor Wreaths Across America next year, and hopes more people will take the opportunity to honor a veteran in their life.