By Susan Patten
The significance of the Wreaths Across America mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach goes way beyond the veterans remembrance tree-tagging and wreath-laying ceremonies.
We remember the sacrifices of our fallen heroes to teach younger generations the value of freedom. Military Appreciation and Memorial Day are everyday occurrences for the Wreaths Across America family, and as memories of past battles fade with those who lived through them, we are dedicated to telling the stories of their courage, heroism, and resiliency.
In our daily busy lives, it is easy to forget those conflicts or to dismiss the fact that we’re still very much at war with dangerous ideologies.
One woman who asks us never to forget the Holocaust of World War II is one of its survivors, Luna Kaufman.
In December 2015, the Wreaths Across America Escort to Arlington stopped at Liberty State Park, New Jersey where the Liberation Monument stands. Luna shared a glimpse of her rich history, which involved the dedication of the Liberation Monument, by Natan Rapoport, which stands in the shadow of Lady Liberty.
“I lost my father and 15-year-old sister,” explains Kaufman. “We, and millions of others paid dearly for the actions of hateful, intolerant and fanatical leaders. For many of us, our war-time experiences sparked a need to teach tolerance and mutual respect.”
She met artist and sculptor Natan Rapoport in New Jersey, and in 1982 for the first time, she saw the “Liberation” sculpture portraying an American soldier carrying the limp body of a survivor.
Kaufman remarked the two were joined so closely it looked as though they shared the beating of a single heart.
“As a Holocaust survivor, I owed my life to the Allied Forces,” explained Kaufman. “I loved liberation because it showed America’s contribution toward saving humanity.”
The message they want to convey is not of the slaughter, humiliation, starvation or dehumanizing abuse brought upon the Jewish people, but rather, the appreciation and gratitude they have for the “liberators.” Those liberators were the soldiers who sacrificed and risked their lives to save victims of the Nazi concentration camps.
Luna’s Life is a captivating book in which Kaufman tells about the loss of her sister and father during internment in the concentration camps. It also explains how she developed her fierce determination and commitment to educating people about the past, so it is never repeated.
Wreaths Across America looks forward to stopping again this year to pay our respects at the Liberation Monument on the Escort to Arlington in advance of National Wreaths Across America Day on Saturday, December 17, 2016, our 25th year of remembering our fallen heroes.