Making New Friends As We Honor Those Who Serve
Editors Note: One of the most amazing things we’ve seen over the years of placing wreaths, is how new friendships are made and lifelong bonds are created through the simple gesture of placing a wreath to honor one who served.
In the big December push, I (Tobin) had the pleasure of meeting starting one such friendship with folks from the USPTO and the UMA (United Military Association) who pitched in to help cover all sections at Arlington – by reaching out to more folks in the beltway. And then this past weekend, the WAA travel team got a chance to meet these new friends in person at cleanup day. Catherine Ferreira is one such new found friend.
Here is a short account, shared with permission and courtesy of Catherine Ferreira (of the USPTO and UMA), about her solemn visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Christmas Day, and one perspective on what the wreaths mean, for the families and friends of those who served. Well said Catherine!
This year Pete (my husband) and I started a new tradition. Being far from family we decided to go to Arlington on Christmas day. It occurred to me as we were driving up I hadn’t seen it, nor did I know for sure if we had been able to cover all the sites. It was a beautiful day.
We arrived around 3 and the sun was starting to set. There were perhaps a handful of cars in the parking lot most folks had been in earlier we were told. We started our walk towards the cemetery, above 2 Coast Guard Helicopters slowly and rather low to the ground hovered around the perimeter of the cemetery. We walked up the road on our way to Section 60, the resting place for many of Peters fallen comrades.
It was humbling, and stirring and still very beautiful with almost no one around as far as you could see wreaths and ribbons and decorations and mementoes. I don’t cry often but I sure did that day. How humbling and amazing to be a part of something so much bigger than ourselves. I realized I had been so focused on the mission I did not really realize what it meant to the folks and families who were there that day and for those who couldn’t get to their loved ones on this very special day.
We walked to Section 60 almost everyone had gone. There was a couple who had brought a tree and ornaments and lawn chairs and had spent the day visiting their son who had been killed in Iraq. We spoke with them for a while. It was the first time they had participated in WAA and said so enthusiastically how important it was that all the folks who had come to Arlington to lay the wreaths were there to remember their son, and that it made their loss somehow less lonely.
The only other person we met but did not speak to simply watched was a young Marine. He had a small roller crate and he caught our attention as he moved from stone to stone, saluting, kneeling and praying and reaching into the crate he pulled out a list and then would pull out a very specific brand of beer and or favorite malt take a sip himself and pour some below the stone. We stood watching as he moved slowly through the section from grave to grave, straightening the wreaths and making sure they looked good. We became all too aware that this young man had lost so many friends, but…., what comfort to the families to know their loved ones were not alone this Christmas day, thanks to men like that young Marine and WAA and to you folks who made this so important to so many to be a part of.
This was an amazing event which Peter and I were so happy to have been involved with. Thank you for bringing this forward and making it happen. As I realized on Christmas day as far as I could see, and I looked, everyone was remembered with a wreath.
Thank you for making our holiday very special. Pete had not been able to visit in four years as it was simply too hard. We did not feel this way this visit…
A blessed New Year to all you folks up in Maine,
CW4 Peter Roderick and Catherine Ferreira (Pete and Catherine)