BY MIKE McCARTHY | MIRROR EDITOR — Approximately 125 hardy individuals gathered on a cold and rainy Saturday morning at Side Cut Metropark to offer heartfelt thanks and to provide some holiday comfort to the souls of over 800 veterans buried in Maumee’s two cemeteries.
The Maumee Rotary Pavilion was brimming with people of all ages as the Maumee Honoring Military Veterans committee kicked off its inaugural Wreaths Across America event with a 20-minute memorial program on December 18. The ceremony was followed by the dispersal and placement of hundreds of wreaths on the graves of Maumee veterans resting in peace at St. Joseph and Riverside cemeteries. The placement of the wreaths was done by dozens of volunteers who had gathered to participle in the event.
Leading off the remarks at the memorial service was event coordinator Dennis Addis, who is a St. Joseph parishioner and a retired group president and corporate officer of The Andersons.
“We are all proud as Americans to live in a free society made up of many people from many walks of life,” Addis said. “The freedoms we enjoy today have not come without a price. Lying here before us, and in the cemeteries throughout the nation and the world, are men and women who gave their lives so that we may live in freedom without fear of oppression.”
With a color guard of American Legion Post 320 members as a backdrop, ceremonial wreaths representing all the U.S. military branches and POW/MIA were presented by various members of the post.
Maumee Mayor Richard Carr spoke next, saying, “I think today is an important day for our community because we are gathered here remembering those who made sacrifices so that we may enjoy the freedoms and privileges we have as citizens of the United States of America.
“All you have to do is look around and see how many of you turned out on such a lousy day. That is what Maumee is about, and we are darned proud of our community. Thank you all,” said Carr.
The mayor added, “It’s also a time today to thank the young people who came out this morning. To have people of all ages here today is a positive reflection on our community. We hope that you will carry on this tradition for many years, and we will be very proud of our city for always remembering our veterans.”
“At a time when we really need it in our country, we pray that God blesses America,” the mayor concluded.
The mayor then asked all veterans in the gathering to raise their hands as the crowd applauded them for their service.
Fr. Eric Schild, the pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church, was the final speaker. He recounted a poem, often recited by a friend and local high school announcer, titled “I Am an American,” which espouses the virtues of appreciating and declaring American freedoms.
“We are gathered here today, obviously to speak these words firmly, to speak them proudly; but also to speak them gratefully, for all of us having a grateful heart for what our veterans have done for us, for the sacrifices they have made, for the sacrifices their families have made,” remarked Fr. Schild.
“It’s such an awesome way for us to recognize them and to pray for them and to remember them.”
Fr. Schild went on to say, “I think that as we approach the upcoming Christmas season, it’s also a way for us to reflect on what we are doing with the freedoms that have been won for us. How are we contributing to kindness and love in our society? How are we contributing to peace and justice? How are we contributing to building up the family and the community?
“This is one huge way of doing it as we go back to our families and go back into our communities with this reminder to us of the sacrifices we are called upon to make for one another and the sacrifices of love that we are called upon to make.”
Fr. Schild concluded his remarks with a prayer for the veterans resting in peace at both cemeteries.
Following the prayer, a rendition of taps was presented by John Mockensturm, past commander of Maumee American Legion Post 320. Joining in the ceremony was Becky Bihn, sergeant-at-arms of the post auxiliary.
Following the conclusion of the pavilion ceremony, the volunteers dispersed to place the wreaths on the graves of the veterans as a soft, cold rain fell upon both cemeteries, serving as a stark reminder of the somber mood of the day.
For those who would like to help this program continue into next year, the national Wreaths Across America organization is matching each wreath sponsored with a free wreath for all sponsorship monies received between now and January 14, 2022. Checks should be mailed directly to the national organization, noting the local Group OH0283 and Location ID as OHSTJO on the check memo.
Checks should be mailed to: Wreaths Across America, PO Box 249, Columbia Falls, ME 04623.
Credit card sponsorships may be done online at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/OH0283. Click on the red box labeled “Sponsor Wreaths” to make a local contribution.