The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) introduces many young men and women today to the Air Force and the notion of uniformed service to our nation. The organization is often a stepping stone to military service or a continuation of military service after retirement.
While being a CAP member doesn't make you eligible for burial in a veterans cemetery, many CAP Cadets who have gone on to receive military honors in every branch of service are interred at Arlington National Cemetery and other veterans' cemeteries across the nation.
It seems fitting that in 2016 as the Wreaths Across America Living History project launched at Arlington National Cemetery the Civil Air Patrol celebrated its 75th Anniversary and was represented by National Historian Dr. Frank Blazich Jr. who holds the rank of Colonel with the Civil Air Patrol.
"History can be studied in many ways, and it's important to do so for a contextual understanding of the journey taken by an individual, organization, or nation," Frank explains. "I've said it before; if you don't understand where you've been, how will you know where you're going?"
Frank says through living history enactors he sees a deliberate and earnest desire to learn about what things were like.
"The attendees on Wreaths Across America Day at Arlington or other Wreaths Across America events nationwide, seeing an individual in period dress provides a degree of insight and context they're not necessarily going to achieve otherwise. It's really invaluable, and I'm privileged to be part of the effort."
Frank says while he understands December weather may not be the coziest of environments in which to wear uniforms design for tropical combat he'd like to see more enactors from the Vietnam era participate in the WAA Living History project.
"A great deal of my interest in history was born out of my father's," Frank explains. "The war never left my father both in physical injuries and mental anguish he suffered. Dr. Frank A Blazich Sr. was a disabled Vietnam combat veteran of the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry. He, like many veterans, rarely spoke about the war. As we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, I think it would be appropriate to see more reenactors representing that conflict."
Frank has a call to action for reenactment units to get involved in National Wreaths Across America Day in December to highlight the mission objective to teach.
"I would urge groups to participate and I know we have reenactors from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish-American War, both World Wars, and even up to the present, representing all branches of the armed forces. If some of these groups or communities would participate there are thousands upon thousands of stories to tell, and I think they would be instrumental in bringing these names and stories back to life. Taking the name from a headstone and representing that individual to the public sharing, not how they died but how they lived and the ideals for which they stood."
Frank says CAP has a group of committed members who have assembled vintage uniforms, primarily of the World War II era and they've participated in the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum's World War II weekend held the first week in June in Reading, PA.
"I've reenacted with them and have seen the value of living history and interpreting history with the general public."
Frank and the Wreaths Across America family hope you'll join us as we remember, honor, and teach through living history.
"We have a dedicated group of compassionate people who come together to help military veterans," Rebecca explains. "If someone reaches out to us and says 'hey we need help getting a veteran's roof shingled' then we try to get it done."
“Every year we have so many professional drivers, bikers, police officers and other first responders, ask us how they can get involved, even if they can’t transport wreaths,” said Karen Worcester, executive director, Wreaths Across America.
"There are a lot of similarities between the military and the trucking industry," Rob explains. "I think that's why you see a lot of veterans successful as truck drivers."
Johnny Vet: Freedom Isn’t Free is a dynamic and inspirational musical journey of the men and women who have fought the nation’s wars and how those same men and women, as veterans, have helped to shape the nation and its destiny.
"History can be studied in many ways, and it's important to do so for a contextual understanding of the journey taken by an individual, organization, or nation."
"It's heart-wrenching to see that and participate in that, Rick shares. "To see all the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles waiting there to have a wreath to place on their family member's headstone, there are just no words for it, none."
"We're just Moms who serve through the organization to make sure that our children's names and lives are not forgotten."
From our standpoint, it's a relatively small thing to do, and we're proud to be a part of the mission."
"With NFI managing the logistics, the sky is the limit. They will help make the entire operation more efficient,” said Debbie Sparks, Director Corporate Development and Community Relations, Wreaths Across America.
Luann started her volunteer efforts with Wreaths Across America in 2015 after hearing about it from a friend who was participating with her DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) group. She's working to sponsor wreaths to cover all of the known heroes laid to rest at Oaklawn.
"I always choose our drivers who are military veterans for these loads and they are proud and honored to have the opportunity to recognize our fallen heroes and their families."
In referencing the Wreaths Across America Stem to Stone Remembrance Tree program Roger spoke to the value and necessity of "planting seeds of patriotism" in younger generations.
Monica explains Maverick has a tremendous amount of pride hauling America's respect and not only do they assign the wreath loads to their drivers who are veterans but those drivers are some of the industry's best.
The September edition of the Military Musicians Showcase goes out to jazz lovers!
As Aaron Van Beek, Location Coordinator for Sioux Center, Iowa placed Chris Kyle's tag in Maine the announcement was made that the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation and Wreaths Across America have agreed to collaborate with the support of their respective programs.
Helen told us about her brother, Ralph H. Johnson, who received the Medal of Honor posthumously following his heroic actions in Vietnam in 1968.
Yes. At Wreaths Across America, we've heard about the "Walmart Heart," and we're honored to be welcoming a group next month that has decided to combine their charity effort with their patriotism and respect.
Brandon says last year spending time at Arlington National Cemetery on National Wreaths Across America Day with fellow employees of Cowan Systems, Inc. was an educational and humbling experience.
"It's been a dream of mine to go back to Arlington with my Mom to be a part of National Wreaths Across America Day to place remembrance wreaths on my grandparents' graves."
According to Gretchen CFI went above and beyond two years ago when they helped make her dream come true.
"When we did that project we had one hundred and thirty-five of our employees at that time who had served in the military and that's a big percentage of employees for one company. We think that it's important to recognize their service."
Christa Parker's love for her son, country, and volunteerism with Wreaths Across America knows no boundaries, quite literally. Her volunteer efforts frequently have her crossing states lines and her stamina and organizational efforts are an inspiration to all.
When asked if he could describe the power of the veterans' remembrance wreath he admitted it was a challenge to put into words, yet hesitated only for a moment.
One highlight from this year's performance came when Six-String Soldiers invited children of all ages to the stage to sing along with them, the Rick Charrette song, I'm An American! It echoed through the valley where replica dog tags of fallen heroes hang among the balsam fir trees' tips that will be used to make veterans remembrance wreaths.
"Rain, snow, or sunshine as you know these guys walk the walk, so we're here to dedicate this section of the tip land to the Old Guard," proclaims Wayne Hanson, Chairman of the Board for Wreaths Across America. "We certainly appreciate everything they do for us."
It was, in fact, a competitor of Abilene Motor Express who reached out to them to tell them about Wreaths Across America and Will says once the owners, Keith and Kolen Jones heard about the effort they were one hundred percent behind it right away.
Especially meaningful is the location of the Grove, which is adjacent to the soon-to-be-opened Medal of Honor Remembrance Park. From this vantage point, The Old Guard will continue to stand watch over America’s fallen heroes.
Kevin says driving Armellini's load of wreaths in the escort to VA National Cemetery in Lake Worth along with the Walmart trucks is a meaningful experience for him emotionally because of honoring veterans, but he says there's also a more physical kind of excitement as a professional driver.
Starting at the end of this month, as we countdown to Wreath Day, we would like to invite you to appear on our national webcast/webinar series to tell us about the local veterans buried in your community. We will also run your interview on WAA Radio and share on social media and in the newsletter.
"If we don't teach this younger generation that freedom is not free they're going to forget and not understand the sacrifice made by these men and women who keep us free and safe. I don't know where this country would be if not for the brave people who step up and volunteer to serve in our military. It's really scary to think of where we'd be without a powerful military."
Thinking about Christmas during July provides us with the perfect opportunity to encourage others to get involved with our mission by sharing the stories of their hometown heroes while explaining, however, to those not familiar we're not "decorating graves."