Wreaths Across America honors fallen service members at Fort Richardson
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON — The Fort Richardson National Cemetery, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson hosted the annual Wreaths Across America Day, Dec. 12, 2015.
Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. More than 1,000 cemeteries across the nation participated, with volunteers laying an estimated 700,000 wreaths on veterans’ graves.
U.S. Army Alaska commander Maj. Gen. Bryan Owens spoke on behalf of JBER at the cemetery to honor veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
“We do this to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and their families, while teaching our children the value of freedom,” Owens said.
The cemetery was established during World War II to bury those who died in the Aleutian Islands Campaign and other Pacific Theater campaigns. Today, the cemetery has 4,527 interments and it continues its tradition of honoring service members from Alaska who have served in every conflict since.
“I’ve never experienced a community as connected to its service members as Alaska,” Owens said. “The relationship shared between Alaskans and [the] military is truly one of a kind.”
Since the start of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, 22 service members from Alaska have been killed in action. Owens went on to share the stories of two fallen Soldiers, Sgt. Daniel Woodcock and Spc. Shane Woods.
Woodcock, who served under Owens, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2007.
“I will always remember Sergeant Woodcock not only because he was one of my Soldiers, but because he was an outstanding young noncommissioned officer, husband and father of two beautiful young children,” Owens recalled.
Woods, from Palmer, Alaska, and two fellow Soldiers were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated under their Humvee in Iraq in 2006.
Owens referenced what the Woods family wrote of their son.
“His follow Soldiers knew him to be a real warrior, putting duty and honor above self. His strong belief in his mission to protect what we have at home; and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is a continued inspiration to those who knew him.”
The conclusion of General Owens speech was highlighted by a poem Woods wrote
“To serve as a Soldier, there is nothing more noble or more true,
To defend your home and ones you love, until your life is through,
To live and die for your brothers, could not be more right,
To honor those who marched before, to carry on their fight,
To protect the innocent and the fair, that they may know no strife,
To keep them safe at any cost, even if the price be thy own life,
Some to return without their limbs, others their lives, some their very soul,
Of all the men to march to war, nobody, not one to come back whole,
To lie in bed late at night, and wonder why not me,
To weep for a brother who didn’t make it, his home never again to see,
To wonder if anyone really understands, or even cares at all,
That they live because others died, that good men had to fall,
To wonder if the banner brave men saluted every day,
Is treated with rightful honor, in memory of those who marched away.”
National cemeteries host Wreaths Across America annually on the second Saturday in December.