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Area cemeteries part of national event honoring military dead

Longview News-Journal - 12/17/2017

GLADEWATER - Cindy and Arthur Crouch of Longview welcomed children and grandchildren from Fort Worth and College Station on Saturday to pay respects to Arthur's military father in Gladewater Memorial Park, where Navy veteran Herman Crouch is buried.

"We do this because we like to honor our veterans and because Daddy is buried here," Arthur Crouch said, shortly before they and almost 40 others fanned out to lay wreaths on the graves of 80 veterans.

They were not alone. National Wreaths Across America Day drew similar scenes across the nation Saturday. That included observances in Kilgore and north of Longview.

The nationwide memorial occurred simultaneously.

"Arlington (National Cemetery) will lay their wreaths at noon when we will lay them, around 11 (a.m.). And the West Coast is around 9 (a.m.)," said John Ashcraft, event organizer and commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 1183.

While the event in Virginia featured 280,000 wreaths, members of the local Community Emergency Response Team raised funds for 80 of them for Gladewater, where an estimated 360 veterans rest in peace. CERT gathered 400 wreaths for Rosewood Park Cemetery on FM 1844, where 480 vets are buried.

Ashcraft said the group also gave nine wreaths to the Kilgore event, which was produced by the Civil Air Patrol, upon learning their wreaths had not been delivered.

"Hey, you," Ashcraft said, putting his arm around 6-year-old Elizabeth Burton, who had arrived with brothers Jonathan Burton, 7, and Jacob Keesee, 18 months.

Army veteran Lynn Keesee said she brought her children to the memorial to instill respect for those who fight to keep America free.

"(It's) to teach our kids to respect our military and let them know where this freedom comes from," she said.

During a brief ceremony in the empty island at the cemetery's entrance, Ashcraft announced the Gladewater arm of the national event might end after participating for a third year.

"Due to the lack of community support for this ceremony, this will be our last year at Gladewater Memorial," he said. "We'll still be doing the ceremony in Longview at Rosewood Park. Unless we have somebody come in substantially, with substantial donations, we're going to have to join them in Longview."

Cindy Crouch noted how many in the nation were honoring veterans at the same moment in time.

"It is a pause," she said. "It's for everybody at a specific time ... to honor our veterans everywhere."

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